NFP or Russian Roulette anyone

It’s like attending a bingo session. All eyes will be down waiting for the highly anticipated employment print this morning. Will this week’s ADP report translate into a much weaker jobs number? Will the stubbornly elevated weekly claims push the unemployment rate up two ticks? Will analyst’s consensus of a headline loss of -100k jobs and no growth in the private sector provide us with a non-event as we head into the ‘labor’ weekend? Expect liquidity to be thin as many New Yorkers skip out of town averting the storm ahead of the holiday. It’s another crap-shoot. Spin the wheel, black or red?

The US$ is stronger in the O/N trading session. Currently it is higher against 11 of the 16 most actively traded currencies in a ‘subdued’ trading range in the O/N session.

Forex heatmap

We had a plethora of data to digest yesterday ahead of this mornings highly anticipated employment report. It will either be a snooze, non-event heading into this long North American weekend or the results will force traders to react like ‘elephants in a china shop’. In his communiqué yesterday, Trichet met market expectations, again announcing that emergency lending facilities would be extended into next year. Somewhat of a surprise was the EU’s policy maker’s small upward revision to next year’s views. They now expect to come inside a range of +0.5% to +2.3% (up from +0.2% to 2.2%). Could they not have made it any wider! The inflation outlook was also revised up a tad to a range of +1.2-2.2%. It’s worth noting and not surprising that they again identified risks to the downside and flagged renewed tensions in financial markets. Policy makers have no intention ‘to signal any change in rates and remains apart from experiments elsewhere with respect to providing rate guidance’.

The dreaded weekly claims reports potentially points to a downside risk to this morning employment print. Analysts note that initial claims (+472k vs. +475k) remains ‘stubbornly elevated and at a level inconsistent with any expectation for meaningful job growth’ and supportive of renewed private job losses. Digging deeper, continuing claims fell by -23k to +4.456m (2nd consecutive week of declines). Up to date, the average has been hovering around the +4.5m mark as claims push further into extended (+894k) and emergency (+4.1m) categories. Since bottoming at the end of the 1st Q, extended benefits have surged higher by +531.6%. Not to be out done, emergency benefits have seen a similar fate and rallied +50%. With unemployment assistance being extended until the end of Nov. has caused the massive surge in both categories.

And finally, US pending home sales unexpectedly jumped yesterday (+5.2% vs. -1%). Any other day and the market would have paid more heed, but, a day before NFP where market participants try to batten down the hatches, there was no excitement. Technically this is the first ‘bullish’ news we have had to digest in the US housing market for some time. Analysts have been quick to explain the huge monthly jump away, the growth is coming off the lowest base ever (June was all-time record low). On level terms, the July data is only ‘ever so slightly better’ and remains insufficient to counter mounting stockpiles of unsold and shadow inventories. So, it’s back to our doomsday housing scenario. 

The USD$ is lower against the EUR +0.05% and higher against GBP -0.01%, CHF -0.17% and JPY -0.10%. The commodity currencies are weaker this morning, CAD -0.18% and AUD -0.15%. The loonie pared some of its euphoric rise, a day after its largest gain in three-months, on concern that US job losses will stall the global economic recovery. Next week’s BOC call is a spilt vote amongst analysts. Fact, futures are pricing in a +40% chance of the BOC tightening. It’s probably one of the toughest calls over the last decade. A string of disappointing Canadian data and a darkening global outlook have weighed heavily on the market’s conviction for a Sept. hike. Last month, the CAD happened to post one of its worst performing months in over a year, falling -3.5% vs. the dollar. The dollar has now capped a triple top at 1.0675 and will prove a formidable support level for the currency again. Canada is not immune to weaker data reported south of its borders. It is only natural that growth and interest rate sensitive currencies would experience some volatile moves on changing risk attitudes. A shortened holiday week will continue to keep the market on its toes.

The AUD fell in the O/N session vs. all its major trading partners ahead of this mornings NFP report. The market anticipates further job cuts this month which is dampening the demand for higher-yielding growth currencies. Investors continue to speculate that the RBA will keep interest rates unchanged next week. The currency has underperformed against all of its major trading partners and is expected to do so until there is a new Government formed. The commodity rich currency is not isolated, as other growth sensitive currencies are suffering the same fate. Government data has also happened to put a lid on the recent rally. Net result traders are adding to their bets that the RBA will leave interest rates unchanged for the next 12-months. Interest rate differentials play a big part of the currency’s attractiveness (0.9100).

Crude is lower in the O/N session ($74.67 -35c). Crude prices yesterday advanced, paring earlier losses, after a rig in the Gulf of Mexico was struck by an explosion, reinforcing concern that US regulations will reduce output in the region. Stronger economic growth data happened to provide a leg up for the ‘black-stuff’ earlier this week. Aiding the commodity was the weekly EIA report revealing an unexpected decline in supplies of distillate fuels. Distillates (heating oil and diesel), fell -739k barrels to +175.2m. The market had been expecting the inventory to increase by +1.15m barrels. Inventories of crude itself advanced +3.42m barrels to +361.7m Supplies were forecast to climb by +1.2m. On the face of it, the weekly report should have been market bearish, but investors happily ignored the data as they found solace in Chinese and US manufacturing data showing new signs of growth. How long is this sustainable? Perhaps NFP will bring even more surprises? In reality, oil hovers just above this month’s low, on concerns that weaker economic data will push the US into a double-dip recession. The market should be wary that the underlying situation has not changed, the fundamentals remain very weak, demand does not look good and stockpiles of crude and products remain at a record high. Speculators remain better sellers on up-ticks in the short term.

Gold prices continue to advance on its record high print recorded earlier this year as investors seek to protect their wealth. The uncertainty of recent data has had investors contemplating boosting their demand for the commodity as a safe heaven. Last month, bullion appreciated +5.2% alone. The market would not be that surprised to see some sort of technical pull back supported by profit taking selling if investors embraced more risk. Consumers are trying to put there cash somewhere more solid on mounting evidence of a US economic slowdown. Speculators again are supporting the various safe heaven assets on pullbacks, avoiding risky assets due to uncertainties in the markets. With a genuine fear for global growth, by default, should boost the demand for the metal as a protector of wealth in the grand scheme of things. With treasury yields expected to remain close to their lows, could promote a quickening inflation rate, which would promote pushing commodity prices even higher. The opportunity costs of holding gold are low due to falling interest rates ($1,254 +60c).

The Nikkei closed at 9,114 up +51. The DAX index in Europe was at 6,093 up +10; the FTSE (UK) currently is 5,376 up +5. The early call for the open of key US indices is lower. The US 10-year backed up 4bp yesterday (2.61%) and is little changed in the O/N session. Treasuries fell a second consecutive day as a surprise pending home re-sales print coupled with a drop in the initial jobless claims data reduced, temporarily at least, the relative safety of government debt. The curve had become too rich and the overbought asset class was due for some sort of correction. Again the curve 2’s/10’s spread has widened 2bp to +211bp after flattening sub +200bp a matter of days ago. Treasuries also after the government announced the sizes of the $67b three debt sales next week (3’s, 10’s and long bonds). Despite product becoming expensive on the curve, NFP uncertainty has debt better bid on pullbacks.

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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