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Daily Fix – The USD Breakout Continues

Chris Weston

I’ve focused on positioning, where I have looked at the weekly Commitment of Traders (CoT) futures report. Skew, which is the demand for put option volatility over call volatility, which, for me, is the best guide around sentiment – the more negative the number the greater the expected move to the downside and vice versa. And volatility, where I have looked at both realised and implied volatility, which I use for risk management and position sizing. For more instruction, do watch the webinar recent conducted as part of TraderFest –

It’s the USD that interest us most this morning, as the rate of change is moving into the top of its range, and it’s attracting just as much attention from the US President, as it is momentum-focused traders.

JPY the place to be on open

At this stage, we can key off the FX open, where the USD has weakened 0.2% against the JPY, but this is not the USD finding fault, as the greenback is up against the higher beta AUD and NZD, and finding buyers against the CNH, although todays CNY fix was far stronger than the street expected – a risk positive function.

The move into the JPY a reflection that Trump’s 15% tariffs have formally kicked in on around $110b of Chinese exports (to the US), and we’ve seen China come back placing tariffs up on $75b of US exports, and one questions if there was an element of the market expecting the implementation of tariffs to be put on ice, given the positive noises from both camps of late. It seems not.

The news flow from Hong Kong would not have gone unnoticed, and we watch to see if there is an increased response from the Chinese authorities. A Chinese manufacturing PMI print of 49.5 (vs expectations of 49.6) has also been a consideration for AUD and NZD sellers here, where we see NZDJPY and AUDJPY lower by 0.6% and 0.3% respectively. It won’t surprise then the S&P 500 and NASDAQ futures have re-opened and currently sit 0.5% and 0.7% lower respectively, with Asia markets down smalls. Here, we see the ASX 200 -0.1%, Nikkei 225 -0.3%, and the Hang Seng -1%.

EURUSD moves in focus

Despite a whole barrage of ECB speakers last week, including somewhat hawkish commentary from Knot, Lautenschlager and Weidmann, throwing some uncertainty into the” kitchen sink” approach expected from the bank at the 12 September ECB meeting. The focus has been specifically on the break of 1.10 in EURUSD, and certainly, it was significant enough to garner the attention of Trump, who said the EUR is dropping “like crazy, giving them a big export and manufacturing advantage”. Let’s see how things stand on Wednesday when ECB chief economist Lane speaks in London (21:00aest), and he could really move the dial in a market which currently places a 47.7% probability that the ECB’s deposit rate is taken to -60bp and 52.3% to -50bp. The argument, like it is in many other nations, seems to be a growing call on fiscal policy as a support driver for economic fragility.

The fact Trump said the USD is the “strongest in history”, highlights the weight he puts on the trade-weighted USD, which sits at 130.66, and at an all-time high. We trade the USD index (DXY) though and whether we are looking at the feel and structure on the daily or weekly timeframe the set-up looks so bullish.

The interesting aspect is, that while we will likely to see a better feel to this week’s US ISM manufacturing print, amid robust payrolls data, on Friday we saw a huge drop off in Friday’s University of Michigan consumer sentiment report, with around a third of respondents highlighting concerns around trade tariffs. If the soft data goes lower, then the Fed will try and get ahead of the curve. Let’s hear what NY Fed president Williams and Chair Powell make of the data this week, with keynote speeches due.

USD intervention grows a touch

However, with the USD strong and Trump making more noises on his disdain here. The question is, at what stage do we genuinely start to consider US Treasury intervention? The US really is the missing link to higher FX volatility, and if the US Treasury team, perhaps alongside the Fed, intervene then we can start talking currency wars with increased conviction, and this is where gold and silver go wild. And, not just because these metals are a clear hedge against negative real or nominal rates, but would stick out as a currency in its own right, with EM FX also working well in this environment.

We are not there yet, and the first port of call would be Steven Mnuchin putting intervention on the radar to scare off speculators. But for now, we look at the trigger points, and a trade-weighted USD 3-5% higher, with an increased rate of change, or, a USD index above 100,00 and eyeing a test of the January 2017 highs of 103.82 would raise FX vols. These levels would suggest we see the EUR/USD into 1.0500, with USDCNY into 7.25 and that would not go down well at the White House.

EURUSD

EUR/USD is tracking a few pips lower this morning, but, for now, the pair is holding below the 1.10 handle and the 1 August low of 1.1027. The technical traders are focused on the 1.0960 area, representing trend support drawn from November 2017 low, and a move through here would only encourage the market to increase short exposures.

Trading the range in the S&P 500

The futures open will offer insights, and the lack of any inspiring news flow over the weekend offers no real bullish catalysts in a market which saw the S&P 500 close unchanged, with the market, yet again finding sellers into 2940/5 zone. The 2945 to 2822 range is clear and defined, and when this breaks, it will get great attention.

US Treasury’s found small buyers in the front-end, and 10s and 30s unchanged at 1.49% and 1.96% respectively, but we expect a stronger move lower on the re-open. The 2s 10s curve remains inverted, and that suggests staying cautious, even if we are coming into a seasonally strong period for risk, with the S&P 500 historically working well in the period up to 19 September, where we tend to fade the strength into options exportation, with gamma sellers and corporate buy-back blackout a driver.

Here, I have aggregated all the moves over the past 10 years into one index, to best show the seasonality of the index. The (small) white circle where we are today.

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Chris Weston, Head of Research at Pepperstone.

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This article was originally posted on FX Empire

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