Central Banks Have Traders Jockeying for Positions

  • Sweden’s Riksbank relies on QE, no rate cut
  • Dollar bulls feels the pressure
  • Investors look to FOMC statement for timing clues
  • BoJ and RBNZ: no rate change expected

Today’s forex action will be dominated by central bank monetary policy announcements. The Federal Reserve, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) are not expected to change their respective interest rates. Nevertheless, each bank’s accompanying statements will be key for investors.

Earlier this morning, Sweden’s Riksbank decided to ease policy further. This time around, the central bank is relying more on quantitative easing (QE) rather than a lower rate path that would take the repo rate further into negative territory.

Swedish policymakers left their main policy rate unchanged at -0.25% (contrary to the consensus expectation of a cut), but more than doubled their government bond purchase program from a total of 40 billion krona to 80-90 billion krona. They also lowered their forecast for the repo rate to show rates unchanged until late 2016.

The option of moving between meetings has been kept open, and after the surprise decision to ease policy in March, the probability that the Riksbank could cut interest rates again in July should be very high to investors.

Currency Strength a Major Concern

The krona (SEK) is again one of the key variables that have been a trigger for this morning’s easing (similar situation for the AUD and the Reserve Bank of Australia). Swedish policymakers expect that expansionary monetary policy will contribute to the SEK “remaining at a weaker level for a longer period of time.” Therefore, expect traders to be anticipating further easing measures (rate cuts, QE, loans to companies and even forex intervention) to be linked to the SEK’s strength. Currently, EUR/SEK (€9.2570) is modestly stronger as the market had been biased towards a rate cut already.

Dollar Squeeze Remains Intact

U.S. dollar bears have found some momentum as U.S. data continues to disappoint ahead of this afternoon’s Fed policy statement. Yesterday, consumers reported feeling less upbeat this month (central bank consumer confidence was 95.2 versus 102.6 expected), adding to the array of downbeat indicators ranging from weak factory activity, business investing, industrial production and new-home sales. Collectively, soft U.S. data has managed to take the wind out the dollar’s sails over the past few weeks and stall the USD’s strong rally from earlier this year.

Investors will be keeping a close eye on today’s Federal Open Market Committee monetary policy statement for clues on how U.S. policymakers view the economic recovery, especially after the plethora of weaker data lately. Consensus expects the Fed to adhere to a low-rate policy well into the summer as it waits for the U.S. economy to bounce back from its malaise.

So far, both the forex and fixed-income markets are at risk of a sharper adjustment of USD and bond longs, as the lack of upside on these trades has seen a modest reversal in the last couple of trading sessions. Uncertainty has some investors diligently trying to protect their profits or limit their losses by cutting these positions. This has contributed to the dollar underperforming and some U.S. longer-term yields to back up.

For many, USD and bond longs continue to be an attractive “core” position. But central bank event risk and market momentum is persuading many to consider trimming these positions even further. This morning, the EUR has managed to penetrate the psychological €1.10 handle, which now allows EUR bull investors to focus on the important €1.1062 target. However, for the EUR bull there is a lot of wood to chop through topside, as the majority of the market prefers to own new dollars on EUR rallies. For the fixed-income enthusiast, U.S. Treasurys are trading in tandem with the weakness in the eurozone bonds. Their core (bunds), semi-core, and peripheral debt yields have risen by +5-6 basis points partially on the back of Greek negotiations hopes.

Australasia to Deliver No Surprises

For both the RBNZ and BoJ, the market does not expect anything new. The BoJ is unlikely to loosen its monetary policy despite some speculation to do so among some investors. Coupled with the fact that the Fed is also unlikely to raise rates soon is the biggest factor preventing a stronger USD/JPY (¥119.32), and why the market has been confined to such a tight trading range for some time.

Some fixed-income traders have priced in only a very “slim” chance of a rate cut by the RBNZ later this afternoon. The majority seems to favor the central bank to be more dovish, triggered by last week’s speech on inflation by RBNZ Assistant Governor John McDermott. Down Under, more economists are pricing in an eventual rate cut in New Zealand, but today’s meeting comes too soon (NZD$0.7676)

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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