Grexit Fears Has Yields Tumbling and EUR Crosses Under Pressure

  • German bund yields print new record lows
  • Grexit fears has spreads widening further
  • Risk aversion pummels EUR crosses
  • Commodity currencies find needed support

Global yields continue to tumble, mostly on fear or lack of returns and modest growth prospects. It’s beneficial for investors to understand the relationship between various yields spreads to comprehend some of the recent currency moves. The rule of thumb is that a low rate environment does not make a currency attractive to investors. One only has to look at the relationship of the EUR to the U.S.-German 10-year spread; it has been correlating well with EUR moves of late. Judging by the moves after the March Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes and nonfarm payrolls data was released, the market has been selling EUR strength. When the spread widens EUR sellers tend to appear. The problem this week is that the market focus has been on lower U.S. yields being backed by weaker data.

Nevertheless, the dollar continues to soar above the EUR in anticipation of the Federal Reserve preparing to raise interest rates later this year or early next, in contrast to the European Central Bank (ECB). With the ECB committed to buying €1 trillion in bonds until September 2016 — restricted to assets that yield more than the ECB’s deposit rate of -0.2% — it’s no wonder that there is a feeding frenzy for European product all along the curve. German bunds continue to smash through record high prices or record low yields, using the ECB demand as their backstop.

Grexit Fears Favor German Debt

It’s not just the ECB, but also Grexit fears that are driving German yields lower. Greece bonds are under pressure again this morning on the back of lowered market expectations over any forthcoming reform proposals. This is raising the prospect of a possible default on May 12 when €747 million is due to the International Monetary Fund. The fear factor is blowing out Greek-German spreads again, back to their March highs (+1225 basis points). With German government debt considered to be some of the lowest risk globally, it’s only natural that they are in high demand. Yesterday, S&P Ratings slashed Greece’s debt deeper into junk territory, saying it expects the country’s debt and financial commitments to be “unsustainable without deep economic reform.” This has pushed the yield on Greece’s 10-year bond to +12.3%, while the yield on its two-year bond has ballooned to +25.3%. The inverted curve (short-term yields are higher than long-term yields) would suggest that the market is now betting heavily on a default.

This has been the cue for investors to try and smash the EUR/crosses lower this morning. EUR/CHF was driven lower through stops under €1.0290 on risk aversion. EUR/AUD and NZD has been sold by models post-Aussie jobs data, while EUR/GBP has dropped to test new monthly lows around €0.7160 with sterling being used as a relative safe-haven play. The hopeful sellers will have to wait and see if this market squeeze can build further momentum.

Commodity Currencies Find Support

It seems that commodity currencies like the CAD ($1.2286) and the AUD ($0.7780) finally have lives of their own. Up until yesterday, the pair had been sucking wind for a while, trading in a relatively tight range with investors suffering whiplash price effects. The loonie came to life not from the Bank of Canada rate announcement or monetary policy forecasts, but from the price of crude. May West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up over +5%, rising above $56 a barrel for its highest level of the year, and also testing the 100-day moving average for the first time in about eight months. The demand for crude has been supported by smaller-than-expected inventory data from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as the American Petroleum Institute. The loonie, as the Canadian $1 coin is known, subsequently took flight, aided by the dollar being weighed down by disappointing U.S. industrial production data.

The CAD dollar’s other commodity-sensitive and high-yielding cousin, the Aussie dollar, has found much needed support on the jobs front. In the overnight session a particularly strong employment report Down Under (+37,700 versus +15,000 expected; unemployment rate +6.1% — a three-month low) has sent AUD/USD to a new two-week high this morning. While the data has been volatile, the seasonal adjustment in this month’s figures would suggest that the Aussie labor market unease could have been overstated. Going into the release, fixed-income markets priced in about a +70% chance of a Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) rate cut next month, but after the announcement, that probability has slid to just under +56%. The market will now focus on next week’s quarterly inflation report for conviction. Remember, the RBA has been very vocal in talking its currency down, deeming it overvalued. It would not be too much of a surprise to see the RBA cut instead.

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