Category Archives: Global FX

Barbarians at the Sterling Gate

Sterling’s collapse overnight has eclipsed somewhat tepid US labour market data.

The net result is that the Sterling NEER has weakened a further 2% since yesterday and is now down about 20% since November 2015.

While trading desks will have a far better grasp of how risk management systems and liquidity contributed to sterling’s drop, recent political decisions and UK data clearly helped set the scene and will leave the currency vulnerable going forward.

Theresa May’s government and EU leaders have in recent weeks successively dismantled the raft of hopeful predictions which had helped Sterling stabilise over the summer.

Moreover, there is growing evidence that a more competitive Sterling has not translated into materially stronger UK industrial output or exports, with the UK’s trade deficit in goods and services widening in recent months

I would reiterate my view, expressed in early July, that the uncertainty associated with the UK’s possible exit from the EU will likely continue to weigh on the UK economy and currency.

This week’s fall in sterling, if anything, has reinforced my view that the Bank of England will maintain a dovish rhetoric but for now refrain from cutting its policy rate to zero or expanding its current QE program.

Moreover I would not expect the BoE to intervene in the FX market to support sterling at this stage. Read more

Federal Reserve – the Father Christmas of central banks

Thursday’s Fed policy meeting contained few major surprises, even if the divide amongst FOMC members has received much attention.

The bottom line is that 14 out of the 17 FOMC members, and at a minimum 7 of the 10 voting members, estimate that at least one 25bp rate hike before year-end would be appropriate.

Should the Fed hike in December – currently my core scenario – this almost unprecedented glacial pace of hikes would be in line with my January forecast of only 1-2 hikes in 2016.

The Fed’s accompanying statement and Yellen’s press conference were, if anything, reasonably upbeat. There were no direct allusions to the dollar, property, equity and bond markets or to global factors, with some justification (for now at least).

The Fed’s two main concerns are squarely centred on sub-target inflation and areas of weakness in the labour market.

It will thus be paying particular attention (and so should markets) to evidence of slack in the US labour market, with the unemployment rate becoming a less useful measure per se of labour market strength and potential wage/price pressures, in my view.

The Fed is clearly giving weight to the historically low neutral Fed funds rate. Even so FOMC members may have to further tone down their 2017-2018 estimates of the appropriate policy rate in relation to realistic (if still a little optimistic) economic forecasts.

Financial markets’ reaction has so far been mostly text-book: a jump in market pricing for a December hike to 16bp, a bull-flattening of the US yield curve, a slightly weaker dollar, a rally in EM and commodity currencies and stronger global equities.

But now comes the hard part. Volatility in Fed fund futures is likely to remain fluid in coming weeks, with financial markets increasingly sensitive to key US data, particularly on inflation and labour markets, speeches by FOMC members and presidential opinion polls.

Should Clinton win the US elections, US data improve and the Fed hike in December, I would expect the dollar to end the year stronger, EM currencies and global equities to struggle to hold onto post-US election gains and major currencies to underperform.

The more problematic scenario for the Fed (and its credibility) is one whereby Donald Trump wins and/or US economic activity slows down.  

This would likely cause a sharp sell-off in global equities while safe-haven assets (e.g. gold, Swiss Franc) would outperform the dollar and in particular EM currencies. Moreover, these moves could struggle to reverse even if the Fed decided to pause in December. Read more

Sticking to forecasts: Fed summer hike, Dollar hat-trick still on the cards, Modestly weaker EM currencies, UK to stay in EU and Sterling to appreciate

The Federal Reserve’s minutes of its 27th April policy meeting released last week set the tone for a possible June or July rate hike. On balance, recent US and global data are unlikely to have fundamentally changed the Federal Reserve’s view that a summer hike may be appropriate.

This is in line with my long-held forecast that the Federal Reserve would likely hike once or twice this year, with the first hike in June. I recently updated my forecast to a July hike as it gives the Fed more time to assess US and global data and the result of the UK referendum on 23rd June. The risk is that the very threat of a hike derails financial markets sufficiently for the Federal Reserve to postpone its second-hike-in-a-decade to later this year. Read more

UK referendum on EU membership – Darkness before dawn

Negotiations over – One-and-done referendum set for 23rd June 2016

For the second time in just over a year the British electorate will take part in a key national vote, with Prime Minister David Cameron having confirmed a public referendum on 23rd June 2016 on whether the United Kingdom (UK) should remain a member of the European Union (EU). David Cameron announced last week that he had negotiated and agreed with the EU executive to improved terms and conditions for the UK’s EU membership in the key areas of migrant welfare payments, safeguards for Britain’s financial services and the UK’s independence from further EU integration and regulations. Read more

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