RBA Drops ‘Endurance’ To Ship The Aussie Larger
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The Reserve Bank of Australia hinted that it was getting closer to a rate hike. The Australian dollar was bid at its best level since the middle of last year. Australian stocks advanced in a mixed regional session while China and Hong Kong markets were closed for the local holiday. BOJ Kuroda called the yen’s recent moves “rapid.” The yen is sidelined today as the dollar weakens against other major currencies, led by the Antipodeans. In addition to the yen, the Swiss franc and euro are also among the laggards. European equites have edged higher and the Stoxx 600 is at its best level since mid-February. US futures have turned lower in the European morning. The US 10-year yield is around five basis points higher at 2.45%. European yields are mostly 5-10 bp firmer. Gold is quiet in a $1925-$1934 range. May WTI is extending yesterday’s 4% advance to add more than 1% to probe the $105 a barrel level. It finished last week near $99.25. US natgas is up almost 2.7% and is approaching the $6 level. It has only fallen in one week since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Europe’s benchmark is almost 3% lower (-0.3% yesterday) after jumping almost 12% last week. Iron ore is higher for a third session, while copper is up almost 1% after yesterday’s 2% advance to trade at new four-week highs. May wheat is up 3.2% on top of yesterday’s 2.6% gain. It fell near 10.7% last week.
The Reserve Bank of Australia dropped its reference to being patient and this was all the encouragement the market needed. The Australian dollar rallied, and local rates jumped. The cash rate futures now fully imply a hike in June. Yesterday, there was only an 80% chance discounted. The upcoming inflation and next month’s wages are still important pieces of the policy puzzle. A move in June would come after the election which must be held by late May. Separately, the preliminary service and composite PMI were revised lower and now show a decline from February. The service PMI was revised to 55.1 from 57.1 and 57.4 in February. The final composite PMI is at 55.6, down from 57.9 flash reading and 56.6 in February.
While the pandemic and earthquake hobbled the Japanese economy in Q1, the groundwork for a recovery is becoming clearer. Labor cash earnings were twice as strong as the median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey projected, rising 1.2% in February and the January series was revised higher (1.1% from 0.9%). Rising inflation meant that in real terms they were unchanged. The median forecast looked for a 0.7% drop. The preliminary March service PMI was revised higher from 48.7 to 49.4, while the final composite reading edged above the 50 boom/bust level (to 50.3 from 49.3 and 45.8 in February.
Last week, the Japan’s Minister of Finance suggested that the impact of the yen’s weakness should be reviewed. We suggested that it was a small first step on the intervention escalation ladder. Earlier today, BOJ Governor Kuroda took another small step and characterized the recent moves as “rapid.” This reinforces our sense that the JPY125 area marks the upper end of a new range for the dollar. Our first stab at the lower end of the range is around JPY121.00 but it might extend into the JPY119.50-JPY120 area.
The dollar is trading quietly against the yen today, mostly within yesterday’s JPY122.25-JPY123.00 range. We are more inclined to see the greenback trading lower in North America and re-test the lows. The consolidative phase in Australian dollar has ended with the surge to almost $0.7640 today. It has surpassed the $0.7610 area, which represented the (61.8%) retracement of the decline since from the February 2021 high slightly above $0.8000 to the late January low near $0.6980. The next important chart area is in the $0.7675-$0.7700 area. With China’s mainland market still closed, the offshore yuan continues to trade quietly. It was largely confined to yesterday’s range and is virtually unchanged since the weekend.
The final eurozone PMI readings were mixed. There was something for everyone. The German readings were revised higher. The March service PMI stands at 56.1, up from the 55.0 flash reading, and an improvement from the 55.8 February report. The composite is at 55.1 rather than 54.6, but still a little softer than the 55.6 in the prior month. French readings were little changed. Services were unchanged at 57.4, but the composite was revised to 56.3 from 56.2 after 55.5 in February. Italy’s service PMI was stronger than expected at 52.1 compared with 52.8 in February. The composite was spot on with expectations at 52.1 (down from 53.6). Spain disappointed. The service PMI fell to 53.4 from 56.6 and the composite stands at 53.1 vs. 56.5 previously. The net result was that the aggregate service PMI stands at 55.6, up from the 54.8 flash reading and a touch better than the 55.5 February report. The composite was revised to 54.9 from 54.5 but still a little softer than February’s 55.5.
The UK PMI was revised higher from the preliminary estimates. The service PMI stands at a lofty 62.6. The flash report has shown improvement to 61.0 from 60.5 in February. The composite stands at 60.9 compared to 59.7 preliminary estimate and 59.9 in February. It is the strongest since last June. The details were a little disconcerting. While output prices rose to a new record high, business optimism is at a 17-month low. Next week, the UK reports inflation and employment figures.
The euro posted a key reversal last Thursday, turning back from a four-week high near $1.1185 and settled below the previous day’s low. Follow-through selling saw it test support near $1.0960 yesterday. It is consolidating today in narrow quarter-cent range below $1.0990. It takes a move above $1.1015 to stabilize the tone but regaining the $1.1050 area is important to lift the outlook. Sterling appears to be going nowhere quickly. It continues to trade in the range set last Wednesday (~$1.3085-$1.3185). It is trading with a firmer bias today, but is holding below $1.3150, near where it peaked before the weekend. Elsewhere, we note that the euro is consolidating at four-week lows against the Swiss franc. It needs to regain a foothold above CHF1.02 to stabilize the tone. A double top may have been carved that projects toward parity. The rise in sight deposits reported yesterday is consistent with SNB intervention. Lastly, with Orban securing a fourth term in Hungary, the confrontation with the EU will likely heat-up. Orban has opposed EU sanctions on Russia but has not vetoed any of them. Still, there are outstanding issues. The euro carved a base last week against the forint and now appears set to appreciate against it. We suspect there is scope of a 3%-5% advance.
The US took another step in weaponizing the dollar to squeeze Moscow. Russian government accounts will no longer make dollar payments through US financial institutions. The chokehold gets tighter. Moscow is forced to draw down their dollar holdings that the Russian central bank has, spend its income revenue, which is estimated to be around $1 bln a day, or default on its obligations.
The US reports the February trade balance. A small improvement from February should not hide the significant deterioration that is taking place. The combined Jan-Feb deficit last year was about $132.7 bln. If the median (Bloomberg survey) projection of a $88.5 bln shortfall is accurate, the Jan-Feb shortfall this year would be a little more than $178 bln, a 34% deterioration. Canada reports its February goods trade balance. If the median (Bloomberg survey) is fairly accurate, Canada’s Jan-Feb surplus will be a little more than 50% greater than the year ago period.
The final service and composite PMI and the ISM services are also on tap. Recall that the flash reports showed unexpected gains. The service PMI improved to 58.9 from 56.5 and the composite rose to 58.5 from 55.9. The ISM services are expected to have improved to 58.5 from 56.5. Fed Governor Brainard will speak about inflation today (~10 am ET). San Francisco Fed President Daly (who seems to favor a 50 bp hike) and NY Fed President Williams also speak later today. Recall that the NY Fed President has a permanent vote on the FOMC, and Williams seems inclined to hike by 50 bp too.
The US dollar is trading at a four-day low against the Canadian dollar near CAD1.2460. Last week’s low, which was also the low since last November, was around CAD1.2430. A break targets the CAD1.2380-CAD1.2400 area. That said, we look for a bounce in early North American activity that could see the CAD1.2480-CAD1.2500 area. Mexico has reinstated gasoline subsidies at states bordering the US after closing them because US drivers were taking advantage of the cheap gas to fill-up. The peso needs consolidation. Consider that coming into today, the dollar has fallen for six consecutive sessions against the peso. Last Monday’s greenback gain halted an 11-day slide, the longest in half a century. The dollar has fallen in every session but last Monday’s, beginning on March 11. The momentum indicators are stretched, and the greenback’s downside momentum is slowing.
Editor’s note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.