Capital Markets: The Meaning of Sterling and Aussie’s Advance Today

The US dollar is mostly weaker today.聽聽It appears to be consolidating the gains scored since the reversal on May 3. Sterling and the Australian dollar are leading the way early in Europe. 聽The Australian dollar’s gains appear more intuitively clear.聽聽The minutes from the recent RBA meeting indicated that it was a closer decision. 聽This means that a follow-up rate cut next month is unlikely, which is what we have argued. 聽While short-term participants may be surprised today, the medium-term outlook has not changed. It seems likely that the RBA may still need to ease monetary policy. 聽The resilience of the Australian dollar yesterday despite the disappointing data from China, and the follow through gains today, is notable.聽聽If it is sustained, it is likely signaling the end of this leg up in the US dollar, which began in late-April against the Aussie and May 3 for most of the others. 聽The Australian dollar’s upside momentum eased in the European morning, so the key to the outlook may be the shape and magnitude of the pullback. 聽 Ideally, the Aussie holds above the $0.7280-$0.7320 band. 聽 聽聽makeArticleAd();We have argued that the place to look for investor anxiety about the UK referendum is not the spot market but the options market.聽聽At the start of next week, it is a month away. 聽The one-month volatility and risk-reversal will replace the two-month tenor as the indication of the cost of insurance. More polls were out, and the one that has captured the market’s attention sponsored by the Telegraph that found a seven-point swing toward the “Remain” camp over the past month. 聽 That puts the status quo in a 55-40 lead. 聽 聽Some press accounts attributes sterling gains to this poll, but this seems a bit selective use of evidence.聽聽The ICM conducted two surveys one by telephone and one online. 聽This produced conflicting results. 聽By telephone “Remain” was ahead 47-39. 聽Online participants gave Brexit the lead 47-43. 聽 聽Also, a seven point swing is large in a month and may be a statistical quirk. 聽Other surveys need to confirm that the undecideds are breaking toward the status quo, as is typically the case, to validate the Telegraph’s results. 聽 聽We note that there has not been comparable shift in the event markets. 聽An alternative hypothesis is that sterling is responding to the same set of fundamentals as the Australian dollar.聽聽There is no greater crisis that the RBA needs cut interest rates at back-to-back meetings. 聽Part the reason is the rebound in commodity prices. 聽The UK is not a large commodity producer of course. 聽However, there are several large companies that report their earnings in the UK, which are tied to the price of commodities. 聽In fact, there have been some reports linking the deterioration of the UK current account to the drop in profits and repatriated earnings from a couple of dozen companies. 聽Behind that explanation lies the statistical fact that sterling and the Australian dollar are at their highest correlation in nearly four years. 聽On a percent change basis, the correlation of the two over the past 60-days is 0.65. 聽The soft CPI (0.3% year-over-year, vs. expectations of an unchanged reading of 0.5%) took the wind from sterling’s sails.聽聽The weakness was in the core rate, which unexpectedly fell to 1.2% from 1.5%. Sterling was already stalling ahead of the report, so the key to the near-term outlook may be how far does sterling retreat. 聽After all, the April CPI report has little bearing on the outlook for rates, and whatever impact it may have under normal circumstances, the referendum will alter the outlook one way or another. The $1.4440-$1.4450 area may be key. 聽A break of it could warn of another 1.0-1.5 cent decline. 聽On the upside, the $1.4530-$1.4545 area has capped upticks since the May 3 reversal. 聽The euro is little changed in the well-worn range.聽聽On the other hand, the dollar is pushing above resistance around JPY109.50, helped by rising equity markets and the rise in US yields. 聽Ideas that if Q1 GDP contracts will boost the chances for fiscal stimulus miss the point. 聽The fiscal support plans on in the works. 聽Investors cannot say GDP is not a good metric of the state of the economy and then expect policy makers to put so much emphasis on a report whose components are already known. 聽Moreover thinking that a small decline is materially different from a small gain for policymakers is to be fooled by the precision that measuring something to a tenth of a decimal point pretends.聽聽The BOJ estimates that trend growth is about 0.2%. 聽Speculators in the futures markets are holding a gross and net long yen position that is near record levels聽聽 聽Given the interest rate differentials; it is expensive to be short dollars and long yen without momentum. 聽Some of the long yen positions may feel trapped, and may now be looking for an exit. 聽 The greenback is unlikely to got through JPY110, of psychological importance straight away. 聽Positioning warns that the pullback will likely be shallow. 聽The US reports April consumer prices, housing starts, and industrial output.聽聽The data will impact expectations for the pace Q2 growth, but the broad direction seems clear. After the soft patch the economy hit in Q4 15-Q1 16, the economy appears to be rebounding. 聽The Empire State survey yesterday was for May and the fall in orders was disappointing, but we need confirmation before investors should be concerned give the momentum of the other data. 聽

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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