Wednesday March 10, 2010
A year after the weakest close for global equity prices, risk appetite has very much returned to the agenda. Stock prices are 60% or so higher from the bottoms reached in March 2009. Of course at the time no one knew it was the bottom and subsequently investors have climbed that so-called wall of worry. As they did they became accustomed to intermittent bouts of risk aversion, which often showed up in two forms. Type A would see stock prices around the world cascade lower as new systemic threats and corporate failures emerged. Type B risk aversion showed up in strengthening values for the dollar and the yen as investors sought safe haven sanctuary. But is it possible that we are now entering a new era? A clearly advancing global stock market, merely punctuated by intermittent and largely minor setbacks, is driving a wedge between risk aversion types A and B. That's clearly evident in Wednesday's trading as the dollar advances at the expense of the Japanese currency.
U.S. Dollar - Earlier gains for the dollar are under pressure at 8am in New York except versus the yen. Earlier European news (see below) gave traders rationale to sucker-punch both the pound and the euro, but both appear to be regaining their poise. The reason for yen weakness stems largely from the fact that Chinese export data for February saw a huge 46% surge over the previous year and confirms two things. The Chinese currency is undervalued and global demand is alive and kicking. In light of this data the Japanese yen slipped against all of its major trading partners as investors lose the argument that there is an ongoing need to maintain a stake in safe haven units.
Chicago Fed President Charles Evans gave further encouragement to investors hoping for low interest rates for a long time when he said that the Fed would likely maintain its present stance for at least three or four meetings. With the FOMC scheduled to meet this month and next and then in Jun and August, the earliest possible shift in the fed funds rate doesn't come until at least September. Those words from Mr. Evans are taking some of the shine off the appeal of the dollar today. He also noted that a low interest rate policy was consistent with a stubbornly high unemployment rate currently running at 9.7% and inflation well below the central target rate. Comments from its New York markets chief on Monday also confirmed that a pre-requisite for tighter policy would be a more established recovery.
Euro - The euro was earlier hurt by pessimism stemming from surprising weakness in German export orders for January. The trade surplus was expected to be €14.5 billion but thanks to a 6.3% contraction in exports that surplus shrank to stand at €8 billion. Overseas orders were supposed to rise by 0.5%. Meanwhile low inflation remained intact although marginally higher than was forecast. Data released today showed that annualized consumer prices rose 0.6% compared to a forecast of 0.4%.
The euro slipped earlier in the day to $1.3544 before rallying not long ago to $1.3625. Against the yen the euro buys ¥123.10 and a euro buys 91.13 pence.
British pound - The pound closed at $1.50 on Tuesday and found itself under further pressure today after manufacturing data showed the first drop in five months. The pound immediately slipped upon the release of the data to reach $1.4873 before recovering to $1.4933. Data showed unexpected weakness with industrial production falling by 0.4% on the month and manufacturing output on the decline by 0.9%. Both readings were expected to improve but the lack of export demand across continental Europe, also evident within today's German data, proved a data-shocker for the U.K.
Japanese yen - Lack of a need for safety is the theme for the yen today. At ¥90.47 per dollar the yen is near the week's low and we wonder what type of acceleration might occur on a push above ¥90.68. When the dollar typically spikes, it tends to emanate from a movement against the yen. Data overnight show that machinery orders slipped in line with expectations by 3.7% for January and confirm a lack of commitment to advance capital spending possibly created by the prospect that capital goods' prices will be weaker ahead.
Aussie dollar - Recently the Governor at the Reserve Bank noted that Australians were still feeling the benefit of below average borrowing costs. In a speech today its assistant Governor Philip Lowe predicted that the economy would likely face several years ahead of above average growth. In tandem with surging Chinese export data indicating strengthening regional recovery the comments helped raise the appeal of the Australian dollar once again lifting it to a seven week high at 91.70 U.S. cents. In the bigger picture the Aussie also jumped to its strongest level against the pound since 1985 and against the euro in 13 years. While data showed that consumer confidence nudged higher official banking figures indicated a surprise drop in home loan approvals.
Canadian dollar -For eight consecutive sessions, intraday data shows higher highs for the Canadian dollar. Failure to breach 97.70 today will mark the first sign that the Canadian strength is in need of a rest. The loonie is currently lower on the day at 97.37 U.S. cents.
Senior Market Analyst