- US Treasury and Fed Joining Forces to Talk the Dollar Up
- The EUR/USD Range Trade
- Soaring Inflation Drives the British Pound Higher
DailyFX Fundamentals 06-09-08
By Kathy Lien, Chief Strategist of DailyFX.com
US Treasury and Federal Reserve Join Forces to Talk Up US Dollar
With inflation skyrocketing and gas prices hitting an average of $4 a gallon, the US government wants the dollar to rise. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first hinted that FX intervention is possible last week and today US Treasury Secretary Paulson confirmed that the US government is not ruling out any policy tool including intervention. The last time the Federal Reserve intervened in the currency markets was shortly after the launch of the Euro. At that time, the currency fell to a low of 84 cents, triggering panic for the European Central Bank. In response to the sharp sell-off in the EUR/USD, the ECB convinced the Fed to jointly intervene in the currency markets to buy euros and sell US dollars. Since there has been no intervention for more than 7 years, stepping into the markets would represent a dramatic policy shift for the US government. The reason why talk of intervention has resurfaced is because the US government may be running of options. Typically, raising interest rates is the most effective way to curb inflation, but with the labor market deteriorating and high energy prices threatening consumer spending, the Federal Reserve is reluctant to raise interest rates. This leaves strengthening the dollar as one of the easiest and possibly the quickest way to bring down inflation. Although we do not expect the US government to do more than jawbone the dollar, their bias for where the dollar should head is now clear. In the past, the Federal Reserve wanted the dollar to fall to boost exports and growth, but they have now flipped their stance and instead they want the dollar to rise. Meanwhile the surprising jump in pending home sales added fuel to the recovery in the greenback as the 6.3 percent rise was the strongest one-month increase in 6 years. The trade balance is due for release tomorrow, we expect the deficit to shrink as exports rebound.
The EUR/USD Range Trade
Last Thursday, European Central Bank President Trichet warned the markets that a 25bp rate hike could come as early as July. This led to a sharp rally in the EUR/USD, but despite this strength and the clearly hawkish comments, the Euro may have a difficult time making a run for 1.60. For the EUR/USD, US fundamentals are just as important as Eurozone fundamentals, which is why last week's developments in the US and the Eurozone could prevent the EUR/USD from breaking out of its recent range. After cutting interest rates by 325bp, the Federal Reserve is bringing monetary easing to a close. We have not seen the last of the US government's attempt to engineer a dollar rally, which could draw attention away from the expected rate hike by the ECB. Furthermore, according to the recent price action in the bond markets, there could be significantly slower growth in the Eurozone economy in the months ahead. For the first time since August 2000, the European yield curve, which is a strong leading indicator for the business cycle has inverted. The US yield curve inverted in 2006 and lasted into 2007, accurately forecasting the subprime credit crisis.
Soaring Inflation Drives the British Pound Higher
The British pound extended its gains as producer prices grew by the fastest pace in over 20 years. Output and input prices increased more than expected on both a core and headline level confirming that inflation is moving beyond food and energy. The Bank of England, which left interest rates on hold last week, will now have a more difficult time reining in inflation. With consumer prices expected to remain above the BoE's target of 3 percent, central bank Governor King will have no choice but to focus on inflation at the expense of growth. In fact, two year notes fell by the most in 10 years, indicating that bond traders expect a rate hike by the BoE over the next few months. Therefore even if tonight's RICS house price balance, BRC retail sales report and tomorrow's industrial production report fall short of expectations, the BoE may not pay much attention to these numbers because for the time being, their hands are tied.
Will the Bank of Canada Cut Interest Rates?
The Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars sold off significantly as the combination of dollar strength and commodity price weakness drives the currencies lower. The bull run in commodities is largely dependent on the trend of the US dollar. Even though there isn't a one to one link between the direction of oil and the dollar, dollar weakness on Friday was one of the primary reasons why oil prices surged to a new record high. Looking ahead, the Canadian dollar will be a big focus tomorrow with the Bank of Canada interest rate decision and the trade balance due for release. Each one of the 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg expects the BoC to cut interest rates. Although oil prices are skyrocketing which should benefit some Canadian companies, consumer confidence has fallen to a 7 year low as the economy shrank by 0.3 percent in the first quarter. Australia also has a few numbers due for release tonight including home loans, ANZ job advertisements and NAB business confidence. These are tier 2 data and should only have a limited impact on the Aussie.
Japanese Yen Crosses Rebound as Stock Market Recovers
After dropping close to 400 points on Friday, the stock market rebounded, helping carry trades or the Japanese Yen crosses to recover. Economic data from Japan was slightly weaker than expected last night with the eco watchers survey dropping to 32.1 from 35.5. This represents a sharp deterioration in consumer confidence and reflects the strain that high energy prices is having on the Japanese consumer. Machine orders are the only numbers due for release from Japan tonight, but the calendar picks up on tomorrow with GDP and the current account due for release.