Week in Review-Feb 18th

Risk-sensitive currencies are surviving despite a China reserve requirement ratio hike and confirmation from Egyptian authorities that Iran had formally requested permission to transit the Suez Canal. ECB board member Bini Smaghi comments that the Central Bank will have to watch inflation closely has the ‘bullish hawks’ squeezing the weak EUR bears positions. Investors, in these thin markets are again adding some geopolitical and G20 risk premium to their portfolios. The most logical reason for not wanting the dollar, despite the US inflation components edging higher this week, is the belief that an ambivalent Fed is falling behind the curve. The lack of confidence in the US administration’s ability to deal with its issues has investors questioning owning the reserve currency. Below, we have some of the highlights of the week.


EUROPE

  • Euro-zone Industrial production fell -0.1%, m/m, in Dec. after rising a revised +1.4% in November. The market was seeking a flat reading. IP was flat in Germany and up +3.8% in Portugal, but weaker in Spain (-0.8%) and Ireland (-1.7%). Analysts believe the weather suppressed production in Germany. However, the softness in Spanish and Irish numbers again promotes further EUR negative sentiment.

  • The Euro-group finance ministers met to discuss peripheral financing issues and again did not agree on specific measures. The principal innovation from the meeting was agreement of the size of a future (post-2013) backup facility at EUR 500bn, supplemented by an IMF contribution. No specifics on the mechanics or financing of this facility or clarification on measures to enhance the pre-2013 EFSF. These details will need to wait until March summits, creating risk for peripheral sentiment.

  • News of complications in the restructuring plans of German’s West Lb again heightened Europe’s financial sector concerns.

  • Euro flash GDP came in weaker than expected, rising just +0.3%, q/q vs. a +0.4% consensus. National releases so far across Europe showed a still weak recovery in the periphery, as Portuguese GDP contracted in 4th Q, while the Greek economy showed little sign of improvement. In core Europe, German and French GDP growth was softer in the 4th Q due to adverse weather. However, y/y, German GDP still grew a robust 4%.

  • The ZEW survey in Germany showed strength in the current economic assessment but weaker than expected forward sentiment in February. Next week’s Ifo will give the market a clearer picture of German momentum into March.

  • UK January inflation was +4.0%, y/y, softer than market fears of +4.3%. However, Governor King’s letter to Chancellor Osborne explaining the inflation overshoot of target contained two surprisingly hawkish twists. Inflation will be ‘as likely to be above the target as below it two to three years ahead’ based on market assumptions for the Bank Rate to rise. King also noted that the split in the committee and said that ‘every member of the Committee is determined to act to adjust policy in order to bring the (inflation) risks into balance’. Market is trying to price in a rate hike by May or if not sooner. The inflation report is making it difficult.

  • Surprisingly in the inflation report, BOE pushed its GDP trajectory a bit lower, kept the central projection for inflation in two years’ time under the 2% target, assuming market rates at just 2%, and also assuming that the Bank Rate remains unchanged. This would suggest that King would need to see a significant tightening in the UK labor market and signs of labor regaining pricing power over wages before turning ‘hawkish’.

  • UK Jobless claims unexpectedly climbed +2.4k last month vs. an expected -3k decline. Growth in average weekly earnings also slowed to +1.8% in Dec. from +2.1% previously.

  • UK CBI export orders rose to the highest level since July 1995. The CBI headline improved to -8 in February from -16 last month. The forward looking output expectations component strengthened to 23, the third consecutive monthly gain. This should point to another strong PMI release in February, as our economist noted, and supports the notion that the benefits from a weak GBP are starting to kick in.

  • UK retail sales rebounded sharply last month and although Dec. saw a big downward revision. UK core sales advanced +1.6%, m/m (the biggest in a year), however, Dec. sales was revised lower from -0.3% to -1%, m/m. In nominal terms, sales are up +5.3%, y/y (highest rate since May 2008). This will support the hawks on the MPC.

  • Chancellor Merkel nominated her economic advisor Jens Weidmann for President of the German Bundesbank

  • ECB board member Bini Smaghi said that the Central Bank will have to watch inflation closely to keep rising costs in check. The market has interpreted the comments to signal that the ECB is again looking towards a possible interest rate hike to combat inflation in the coming months.

  • Today and tomorrow will see France hosts the finance ministers and heads of the central banks of the G20 bloc. The ministers will follow up on the pledges made by the leaders at in Seoul in November, particularly regarding exchange rates. The market can expect a communiqué on Saturday. The meeting will discuss global imbalances. There may be agreement on the need for better monitoring of current-account deficits and surpluses.

Americas

  • Headline (+0.3% vs. +0.5%) and core-US retail sales (+0.3% +0.5%) continue to rise but disappointed the aggressive upbeat expectations. Analysts are questioning the price versus volume effects in calculating the market disappointment. There is talk about a downward revision to 4th Q GDP. The backward revisions certainly took some of the steam out of the Jan report. Both the headline and core were revised lower in December and it was just the core print adjusted for the November release.

  • US import prices accelerated higher last month, doubling to +1.5%, higher than market expectations. This is the fourth consecutive month of price increases (4-month annualized rate more than +15%). These numbers will have the Fed being challenged on its price stability policy. Year-over-year, import prices are up +5.3%, while export prices are +6.8% higher. Obviously, export prices got a boost from the Fed’s QE2 stance.

  • Manufacturing in the NY region grew at its fastest pace in eight-months (+11.92 to +15.43). Analysts note that with capacity utilization at historical lows, there remains plenty of room for manufacturing to aid consumer consumption in the economic recovery. It’s worth noting that the Empire index has been relatively consistent over the past year. Analysts are optimistic that business will begin open their coffers and spend more of their cash hoards on capital goods.

  • The FOMC minutes did not sway from recent market opinion. The improved economic views were not enough to change the outlook very much. Near term growth, unemployment and prices all improved, but this strength does not seem to be carried through to the longer term view. We have witnessed the split on the speakers circuit of late, however, consensus does not need to change policy just yet. Some members felt that ‘if more data showed stronger evidence of recovery it could justify changing the pace and size of current asset purchases’.

  • US Jan. housing starts advanced +14.6% to +596k. The aggressive rise easily offset the softer permits surprise of -10.4% declines to +562k. Analysts note that even with the abnormal weather variable and regulatory changes, the print looks ‘consistent with a moderate underlying improvement’. Noting that mortgage rates continue to tick higher, the overall picture though somewhat upbeat will definitely not be leading US economic recovery any time soon.

  • US producer prices advanced for a seventh consecutive month in January (+0.8%). It’s not surprising to see that most of the support came from energy prices (+1.8%). The stronger than expected core-PPI reading (+0.5% vs. +0.2%), coupled with stronger data of late, is expected to eventually put pressure on the Fed’s doves to abandon any plans of further monetary accommodation, like QE3. The market is beginning to expect the debate over monetary policy to ‘return to more normal lines’ in the second half of this year.

  • US industrial production disappointed, declining -0.1% vs. a market expected rise of +0.5%. The surprise is palatable because of December’s upward revision from +0.4% to +1.2%.

  • Canadian December manufacturing data recorded a big miss (+0.4% vs. +2.3%), however the impact was eased by the modest positive prints on capital inflow (+9.63b) and leading indicator data (+0.3%).

  • US inflation (headline CPI +0.4%) is still being bullied by gas prices. Strip transportation (+0.23%) and the gas component out of the report, and we have inflation going nowhere in the US economy (core-CPI +0.2%). It’s not generalized inflation, but, price shock being expressed mostly by commodities.

  • The US jobless claims headline (+410k) happened to give back some of the previous week’s gains. Initial jobless claims increased by +25k. Apart from last week’s +385k print, it is the second lowest level seen this year. The less volatile four-week moving average moved a touch higher to +417.8k and remains supportive of a firmer NFP report for this month.

  • The Philly Fed print blew everyone out of the water (35.9 vs. 19.3). This is strong proof that ISM may not have peaked. The strength can be attributed to a surge in shipments and higher prices. The gain in shipments is on the back of a solid quarter of new-orders.

  • Canadian Wholesale trade (+0.8%) is expected to add to December’s GDP print, while housing starts, hours worked and manufacturing sales will act as a drag. It is the fifth-consecutive month of gains and came with a significant price effect.

  • Canadian inflation disappointed the medium term hawks. In non-seasonally adjusted m/m terms, headline CPI advanced +0.3%, while core remained flat. In a seasonally adjusted m/m terms, headline CPI was up a more modest +0.2%, and +0.1% at the core level. The absence of inflation pressures combined with a mixed growth picture should keep the BoC on hold until late this year.

ASIA

  • Japanese GDP contracted only -0.3% in the 4th Q vs. market expectations of -0.5%. This was largely due to 3rd Q revision to +0.8% from +1.1%, q/q. With yields so low, the JPY will remain vulnerable as other G10 countries begin to tighten.

  • Value of loans in Australian managed to advance +2.5% in Dec. Home loans increased +2.1%, m/m, doubling the +1.0% forecasted. Investment lending was up +3.0%, offsetting the revised -2.0% contraction in Nov.

  • Chinese Jan. trade surplus was +$6.5b (smallest surplus in nine-months). The 12-month rolling surplus fell back to $177b from $185b in Dec. The narrowing surplus was due to record high imports of $144b, up +51.4%, y/y. Exports were up +38%, y/y, to $151b. Strong proof that Chinese demand remains solid.

  • The recalibration of the Chinese inflation release (+4.9% vs. +5.3%) is having only a modest affect on risk and Asian currencies. The lower than expected, but elevated print is proof that rising food, housing inflation, will keep headline inflation elevated and require Chinese policy tightening to be front-loaded. This is obviously a risk to domestic growth, handcuffing the PBOC in being more hawkish on their exchange rate policy.

  • RBA minutes stated that a ‘slightly restrictive’ policy stance was appropriate as a resources boom boosts incomes. The minutes offered no new real news, but stated clearly that the medium-term outlook for the Australian economy remains robust.

  • The NZ PMI rose +0.6% to +53.7 in Jan. Input prices rose +0.9%, q/q, while output prices only rose +0.2%, with producers not passing on costs in full. The ANZ consumer confidence fell -9% to 108.1 in Feb.

  • China raised reserve requirements by 50bp, accelerating its pace of tightening (+19.5%). The markets appear to be getting more comfortable with the notion that the PBOC can achieve a soft landing without disrupting global markets.

WEEK AHEAD

  • In Europe, German Ifo Business Climate starts the week with UK data dominating, giving us Net Borrowing, MPC meeting minutes and revised GDP. Not to be left behind, the Swiss has the KOF Economic barometer next Friday
  • Main focus for Canada will be Retail sales. In the US, Consumer Confidence, Homes Sales, core-Durable goods, weekly claims and ending with Prelim GDP
  • Down-under, Kiwi inflation starts their week. RBA’s Gov. Stevens delivers a speech ‘Australia and the Resources Boom’ mid-week. Markets will also get a peek at AUD private Capital Expenditure

This article is for general information purposes only. It is not investment advice or a solution to buy or sell securities. Opinions are the authors; not necessarily that of OANDA Corporation or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, officers or directors. Leveraged trading is high risk and not suitable for all. You could lose all of your deposited funds.

Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell