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Fundamental Analysis 22.02.2018 - Market Outlook

Market Recap

The big event overnight was the release of the Federal Market Open Committee (FOMC) Minutes, which showed that Federal Reserve official “anticipated that the rate of economic growth in 2018 would exceed their estimates of its sustainable longer-run growth.” Note that this forecast was made before the budget deal in early February 2018, which will add additional fiscal stimulus to the economy. The minutes also explained that they inserted the word “further” in the January 2018 statement to reflect the fact that “the strengthening in the near-term economic outlook increased the likelihood that a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate.” The majority of Committee members were encouraged about how the inflation data were unfolding, while the few holdouts that still want to see more proof are in the minority – and this was before the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) data, which showed the headline rate of inflation accelerating.

The result of the news was as expected – bonds sold off, the yield curve steepened, and with interest rates moving higher, stocks fell.

As for the Forex market, the dollar once again firmed as a result of higher US interest rates. Yet the one currency that outpaced the dollar was JPY, which should in theory be the currency most sensitive to higher US rates. JPY seems to be reacting as usual to lower stock markets – Japanese investors tend to increase their currency hedges in such situations, which gives rise to the talk of JPY as a “safe haven” currency. The latest data also showed Japanese investors repatriating money out of foreign bonds, too. Japanese investors tend to prefer to buy into a rising market rather than buying on dips – perhaps they’re waiting for the interest rate cycle to get further along.

The crucial level to watch for with USD/JPY is ¥107. If it falls below ¥107 before the end of the fiscal year on 31 March 2018,  Japanese exporters might hedge their positions. They may set their internal budgets assuming a USD/JPY level of ¥110 and placed hedging orders to sell USD/JPY if it breaks below ¥107. Moreover, if it falls below that they could revise down their assumption for the first half of the coming FY to a lower range, such as ¥100-¥105, which would mean selling all the way down to that would be favorable for them. Life insurance companies too may hold off investing abroad and even raise their hedges if it breaks through ¥107.

On the other hand, AUD did not perform well. AUD 10-year yields have been below US 10-year yields for the last three days, and the negative spread gap is widening. The divergence between the currency and the direction of the yield spread is getting noticeable. In the past, this has usually been corrected by the currency moving lower, not the yield gap moving higher. 


Today’s market

French manufacturing confidence is expected to stay at its recent high level, equaling the highest level hit since 2001. This indicator does not have a very good correlation with the subsequent movement in the currency, but there are often  movements afterwards – although those movements may be the result simply of the indicator coming out early in the European day. In any event, manufacturing confidence staying at such a high level could be good for the euro.


The German Institute for Economic Research (Ifo) index that comes out later is much more closely watched. Although this is a big indicator for Germany, it’s hard to say which part of it the market is looking at. None of the constituents is especially closely correlated with the subsequent movement in EUR/USD. If anything, the current assessment seems to be the biggest influence. In that case, the slight decline in all the indices that’s expected for February 2018 might not be a negative for the euro, since the current assessment was at a record high in December 2017 (data goes back to January 1991). On the contrary, only a small decline from these levels may be considered euro-positive.


The second estimate of UK Q4 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be released. Usually the overall figure isn’t revised, just some details about the underlying components are released, and all is well. Any changes from the initial estimate can be market-moving, however. 


Canadian retail sales (excluding autos) are forecast to be unchanged from the previous month. Ordinarily that might seem like a rather weak turnout, but sales were up a relatively strong 1.6% mom in the previous month, so maintaining that pace is good. The figure could be CAD-positive.


The US leading index (LI) is expected to rise at a faster pace. The index has been on an upward trend for some time now and that seems to be continuing. Although the indicators comprising the LI are already out, still it can move the markets. This could be USD-positive.


Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic will speak at a banking conference in his district. He is a voting member and rather dovish. Similar to Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick T. Harker, Raphael Bostic has said that while he is optimistic about growth, he is cautious about raising rates. He has repeatedly used the word “slow” in talking about rate hikes, and back in January 2018 noted that “that doesn’t necessarily mean as many as three or four moves per year.” That puts him possibly below the FOMC median of three hikes this year and next. It will be interesting to see if the recent stronger-than-expected consumer price indices CPI data and the fiscal stimulus has changed his view.

Overnight, New Zealand retail sales are expected to have accelerated in Q4. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) noted in its recent Monetary Policy Statement that per capital consumption growth was below average in Q3; this figure may push it back up to a more normal rate, but not higher than that. This could be NZD-neutral.


Finally, Japan announces its consumer price indices (CPI). Excluding periods when the government hiked the consumption tax, the CPI has been below the Bank of Japan’s 2% target since 1992, i.e. for 26 years.  The Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has said in previous statements that inflation is accelerating.

In any event, the national headline CPI is expected to accelerate to 1.3% yoy from 1.0%, but that’s largely energy prices; the core CPI, which excludes fresh foods and energy, is forecast to remain at +0.3% yoy, or virtually no change in prices – neither inflation nor deflation. This could be JPY-neutral. 



The Fundamental Analysis is provided by Marshall Gittler an external service provider of an independent analytical company. Any views and opinions expressed are explicitly those of the writer. Any information contained in the article, is believed to be reliable, and has not been verified by STO and is not guaranteed to be accurate. References to specific products, are for illustrative purposes only and are not a form of solicitation, recommendation or investment advice. Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.

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