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By Nick Parsons

Roller-coaster day for the USD as bond yields rise but stocks fall. EUR was best performer on Tuesday. AUD and NZD hold on to Monday’s gains.


Australian Dollar

AUD

Expected Range

Tuesday really was an up and down day. Everything was going well for the Australian Dollar until late in the London morning. It had risen to a best level of USD0.7680 and looked on track to test last Friday’s high of 0.7688 before succumbing to a modest USD rally which saw the dollar index rise around a quarter point off its low. By the end of the European day, AUD/USD had fallen 30 pips to 0.7648 but in the last 2 hours of New York trading, the Aussie had recovered to 0.7665; almost exactly where it had begun 24 hours earlier.<br> <br> The Minutes of the RBA’s December 5th Board meeting showed the Bank was generally upbeat on the labour market, noting conditions had remained positive and had been stronger than expected over the previous year. Employment had increased a little in October and growth over the previous year had been well above average. Full-time employment had risen sharply and was growing at around its fastest pace in a decade. The unemployment rate had edged lower to be 5.4 per cent in October, which was its lowest level since 2013, and unemployment rates had been on a downward trend in most states. Forward-looking indicators of labour demand suggested employment growth would be somewhat above average over the next few quarters.<br> <br> For all the strength in employment, however, “growth in consumption was expected to have slowed in the September quarter and the outlook for household consumption continued to be a significant risk, given that household incomes were growing slowly and debt levels were high.” The RBA, it is clear, will not be raising rates until wages pick up: “How far and when stronger conditions in the economy and labour market might feed through into higher wage growth and inflation remained important considerations shaping the outlook.”<br> <br> The AUD opens in Asia this morning at USD0.7660 with AUD/NZD at 1.0960 and GBP/AUD1.7465.

British Pound

GBP / AUD

Expected Range

After Monday’s very strong performance, the GBP ended broadly unchanged on Tuesday. At one point towards the middle of the European afternoon it was firmly at the bottom of the one day performance chart but a late session rally left it net little changed on the day.<br> <br> To recap for our Antipodean readers, Theresa May said on Monday that, “the guidelines published by President Tusk on Friday point to the shared desire of the EU and the UK to make rapid progress on an implementation period, with formal talks beginning very soon… We will now work with our European partners with ambition and creativity to develop the details of a partnership that I firmly believe will be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU”.<br> <br> The phrase “very soon” was not defined and – as we pointed out here - there appears no desire on the EU side to work with creativity. Within just a few hours, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Britain cannot have a special deal for the City of London. “There is no place for financial services. There is not a single trade agreement that is open to financial services. It doesn’t exist.” He said the outcome was a consequence of “the red lines that the British have chosen themselves. In leaving the single market, they lose the financial services passport.”<br> <br> With no economic data scheduled for release in the UK today, the pound opens in Asia at USD1.3380 with GBP/AUD at 1.7460 and GBP/NZD at 1.9140.

Canadian Dollar

AUD / CAD

Expected Range

The Canadian Dollar is not heavily traded in offshore markets, but price movements in Asia and Europe overnight became progressively smaller before a big break to the upside during North American hours. The CAD spent all of Monday trapped in a range from USD1.2848 to 1.2878 and an overnight trading range in Asia Tuesday which saw USD/CAD stuck between just 1.2860-1.2873. By noon in London yesterday the pair stood at 1.2860 but barely 2 hours later it was at 1.2891 and on its way to a high in New York of 1.2912; its highest in almost 5 months.<br> <br> We’d love to be able to explain what was behind the move but, as with the US Dollar on Tuesday, there was little or no fundamental driver. It’s certainly likely that ‘stop-loss’ orders were triggered above the end-November high of 1.2900 and the November 1st high of 1.2905 but the pair then gave back 35 pips of its rapid gain equally quickly. At this time of year as markets become increasingly less liquid, such seemingly random price action is an ever-present risk and careful consideration should be given when placing orders either to exit or enter currency transactions. Bear in mind, too, that the price spike came in what was the ‘home market’ for USD/CAD. Imagine what can happen in overseas time zones…<br> <br> The Canadian Dollar opens in Asia this morning at USD1.2885 with AUD/CAD at 0.9870 and NZD/CAD at 0.9005.

Euro

AUD / EUR

Expected Range

The euro had a very good day on Tuesday, rising back on to a US 1.18 big figure at the end of the Sydney session and staying on it for pretty much the whole day It hit a best level of 1.1829 in the European time zone; the same as Monday’s high. By the end of the day, however, and as the US Dollar weakened, it went on to hit a high of 1.1846 and finished as the strongest of the major currencies.<br> <br> Having stubbornly refused to take any encouragement from last week’s crop of positive data, the release of the German ifo Survey this time did provide some support. According to the ifo Press release which was unusually full of seasonal cheer, “Sentiment among German businesses is excellent ahead of Christmas, but no longer quite as euphoric as last month. The ifo Business Climate Index edged downwards to 117.2 points in December from 117.6 (Seasonally adjusted) points in November. This was due to less optimistic business expectations. Assessments of the current business situation, by contrast, were more positive this month. German businesses are full of festive spirits.<br> <br> In manufacturing the index dipped down from its record high. Manufacturers are no longer quite as optimistic about the months ahead. However, they are more positive about their current business situation, primarily due to an upturn in orders. Both indices close the year way above their long-term average. Manufacturers expect prices to continue to increase”.<br> <br> The EUR opens in Asia this morning at USD1.1845, AUD/EUR0.6470 and NZD/EUR0.5900. German PPI and Eurozone PPI data due on Wednesday are very unlikely to be market moving data points.

New Zealand Dollar

AUD / NZD

Expected Range

Like its Aussie cousin, the New Zealand dollar enjoyed a good morning in Europe, seemingly on track to retest the multiple highs of the last few days at USD0.7025 and 0.7027 and 0.7028. At noon in London it reached a best level of 0.7015 before turning sharply lower as the US Dollar rallied. By the close of business in Europe, NZD/USD was down at 0.6982 but in the last couple of hours of New York trading it recovered just a little to close at 0.6990.<br> <br> Yesterday we saw ANZ’s business confidence survey. It was this which did the greatest damage to the Kiwi Dollar a month ago when the headline measure plunged 29 points to an 8-year low of -39. Unfortunately, there was no discernible pick-up in December: a net 37.8% of respondents expected the economy to deteriorate over the year ahead. Digging into the details of the survey reveals one bright spot. Business expectations for their own firms to grow in the next year picked up to a net 15.6% of respondents, from 6.5% in November. The historical average for this series is +28. As the ANZ noted in their Press release, “The economy is doing the hard yards at the moment. Positive forces remain, but the turn in housing, flattening off in net migration and lack of capacity in the construction sector are all dampening near-term growth."<br> <br> Today there are effectively two sets of trade figures to analyse: the monthly merchandise trade numbers November and then the Q3 balance of payments data. The consensus (such as it is) appears to be for a monthly deficit around -$350m after -$871m the previous month. This would improve the rolling 12m deficit (a favoured measure in NZ if not elsewhere around the world) to around -$2700m from -$2986. For the quarterly snapshot, it is expected that the current account deficit as a percentage of GDP will drop from 2.8% in Q2 to 2.6% in Q3.<br> <br> NZD/USD opens in Asia this morning at 0.6990 with AUD/NZD at 1.0960.

United States Dollar

AUD / USD

Expected Range

The Dollar had a roller-coaster day on Tuesday after Monday’s difficult to explain drop. We reminded readers seeking to understand its decline of the wise words of Janet Yellen that “correlation does not imply causality”. It was certainly interesting to do a Google search on Monday evening and look at the multiple versions of “US Dollar drops as….” Your author was forced to spend 5 years of secondary education learning Latin (in the perhaps forlorn belief that this would improve his adult vocabulary) and is often reminded of the phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc”. For the non-classicists, this translates as “after this therefore because of it” and is a trap into which many financial journalists frequently fall.<br> <br> Having opened in Sydney at 93.25 yesterday, the USD’s index against a basket of major currencies fell to 93.07 but rallied in the European afternoon to 93.20; not quite reversing all the decline but with a steadier tone nonetheless. Its’ rally came as US bond yields rose above their recent trading ranges with 10-year Treasuries up at 2.45% from 2.38% on Monday.<br> <br> From 4pm London time, however, and even as US bond yields sustained their earlier climb, the USD turned lower once more. A weaker equity market didn’t help investor sentiment but as we go to print the House of Representatives has just passed the tax reform bill 227-203, sending it to the Senate for approval.<br> <br> The US Dollar index opens this morning in Asia at 93.0. There’s not much on Wednesday’s US economic calendar though existing home sales are expected to have risen 0.9% m/m to an annualized pace of 5.52m.

By Nick Parsons

USD tumbles for no obvious reason. GBP best performer on the day, followed by EUR. AUD and NZD mixed but on balance a touch stronger.


Australian Dollar

AUD

Expected Range

The Australian Dollar had quite a good day on Monday, though perhaps not quite as good as a quick look at the AUD/USD exchange rate would suggest. It couldn’t quite get back to Friday’s 0.7688 high – which was the best level since November 10th – on a day when the US Dollar itself was the weakest of all the major currencies. Each of the three main global time zones saw AUD/USD trade sequentially higher though by the end of the New York session, it had reached a best level of ‘only’ 0.7676.<br> <br> The main event for investors in Australia to mull over was the Government’s Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook (MYEFO). This update traditionally gives the Government a good opportunity to make soothing noises to the international ratings’ agencies about economic growth and debt sustainability. In this regard, this latest MYEFO was exactly as expected.<br> <br> The Government continues to forecast a return to budget balance in 2019-20 and then a surplus of $10.2bn in the 2020-21 fiscal year. A slowdown in the housing market and slower growth in wages have reduced the estimate of 2017-18 GDP from 2.8% to 2.5% though the unemployment rate is now seen a quarter of a percent lower at 5.5% and CPI has been left unchanged at 2.0%.<br> <br> The initial reaction from the credit agencies was broadly positive. Moody’s said, “Overall, the modest changes in Australia’s fiscal and economic outlook maintain a credit-positive commitment to returning the budget to a surplus in fiscal 2021.<br> <br> Moody’s continues to see risks that fiscal deficits will be wider for longer than the government projects. This reflects our expectation for more subdued nominal GDP growth than over the past decade, a consequent dampening of revenue generation and a testing climate for spending restraint. The mild reduction in the expected profile for wages growth embodied in the forecasts remains a concern.”<br> <br> The AUD opens in Asia this Monday morning at USD0.7667 with AUD/NZD at 1.09458. The big event locally with be the 11.30am release of the RBA Minutes for the December Board meeting.

British Pound

GBP / AUD

Expected Range

The British Pound performed better than its cricket team yesterday but that is setting the bar really low! It opened in Sydney on Monday morning at 1.3320 and by mid-afternoon London time had reached a best level of 1.3415. It gave up some of these gains in New York but nonetheless finished as the day’s strongest performer amongst the major currencies we track closely here.<br> <br> Although Prime Minister Theresa May has consistently declined to give what she calls a “running commentary” on Brexit negotiations, she always gives a statement to the House of Commons after EU summits. These used to be extremely dull, with little information content, but they have now become major set-piece Westminster events. The published text of her remarks to Parliament says, “the guidelines published by President Tusk on Friday point to the shared desire of the EU and the UK to make rapid progress on an implementation period, with formal talks beginning very soon… We will now work with our European partners with ambition and creativity to develop the details of a partnership that I firmly believe will be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU”.<br> <br> Though this speech gave a pre-Christmas lift to Conservative MP’s and their supporters, it doesn’t take much textual analysis to spot the two big problems: The phrase “very soon” is not defined and could actually mean many months pass before even the most tentative agreement is reached. More importantly, there appears no desire on the EU side to work with creativity. Michel Barnier, the lead EU Brexit negotiator said at the weekend that “no way” could there be a bespoke trade deal that mixed those that applied to Canada and Norway. “There won’t be any cherry picking,” he said.<br> <br> The GBP opens in Sydney this morning at USD 1.3382, AUD1.7452 and NZD1.9125. There are no UK statistics released this Tuesday.

Canadian Dollar

AUD / CAD

Expected Range

After last week’s very well-received speech, the Governor of the Bank of Canada gave an interview to the Globe and Mail newspaper this last weekend in which he played down the importance of so-called forward guidance. “I'm confident that other central banks, now that we are getting much more into normalcy, will gradually temper down the details around their forward guidance, too… I'm not going to judge whether the market got it right or not. But it does seem like the market has a tendency to seize on a new word as if it's a new secret code. Caution does not mean sitting back and doing nothing.”<br> <br> For the moment, the Canadian Dollar hasn’t really responded to these latest comments. It spent all of Monday trapped in a range from USD1.2848 to 1.2878; shrugging off a 30c fall in oil prices but failing to get any real traction from Mr. Poloz’s call on interest rates that, “We need to get ourselves up there for real, and to the 2-per-cent zone, so we have room to manoeuvre for the next shock that comes along."<br> <br> For the rest of the week, there’s still plenty to come on the Canadian economic data calendar. Wednesday is wholesale trade, Thursday is CPI and retail sales and on Friday it’s the monthly GDP numbers for October.<br> <br> The Canadian Dollar opens in Asia this morning at USD1.2870 with AUD/CAD at 0.9865 and NZD/CAD at 0.9005.

Euro

AUD / EUR

Expected Range

The euro had a good day on Monday, rising first in Asia, then in Europe and early in the New York day reaching its best level since just before last week’s ECB meeting. From an opening level around 1.1745, it reached 1.1818 before sliding back late in the day to the high 1.17’s. This strength in the Single European Currency came despite a very dovish speech from ECB Council member and Bank of Finland Governor Erkki Liikanen and the details of the final Eurozone CPI numbers for November.<br> <br> Ms Liikanen said the recovery of the Euro area economy and reduction of economic slack supports confidence in inflation converging towards our inflation aim in due course but, “An ample degree of monetary stimulus is still required for underlying inflation pressures to continue to build up and support headline inflation developments over the medium-term”.<br> <br> Inflation in the Eurozone was confirmed at 1.5% y/y in November. This was boosted by higher energy prices (which are now up 4.7% y/y) whilst food, alcohol and tobacco eased back to 2.3%. Core CPI rose just 0.9% y/y, in line with the preliminary estimate and it is for this reason that the ECB persisting with a very easy monetary policy even as the real economy is accelerating at a pace not seen since well before the GFC.<br> <br> The EUR opens in Asia this morning at USD1.1780 and AUD/EUR0.6506. The big data point on Tuesday will be the German ifo Survey which last month jumped to an all-time high of 117.5 and is expected unchanged at this level in December.

New Zealand Dollar

AUD / NZD

Expected Range

After its very strong performance last week, the New Zealand Dollar was much more mixed on Monday. It rose against the US and Canadian Dollars, was down a little against the euro and Australian Dollar and fell somewhat more against the British Pound. As with the AUD, it couldn’t get back to Friday’s highs against the USD with an intra-day high of 0.7027 a couple of pips shy of last week’s best level.<br> <br> The day began very well for the flightless bird. The BNZ performance of services index rose 0.7 points to 56.4 last month, above its long-term average of 54.4. All of the five sub-indices were above the 50 reading that separates contraction from expansion. The survey's new orders sub-index posted the highest reading, rising to 60.7 from 60.3, while activity/sales advanced to 60.5 from 58.2. This was the seventh consecutive month the new orders index has been above the giddy heights of 60 though the survey's employment sub-index continued to be a relatively softer component of the PSI; printing at just 50.6 from 51 in October.<br> <br> The week ahead is packed with economic data as the official statisticians clear their diaries ahead of the local holiday season. Q3 GDP figures will finally be published on Thursday with growth expected to slow to 0.6% in the quarter for an annual pace of 2.4 per cent, whilst today we’ll get to see if the sharp fall in ANZ’s November business confidence has been at all reversed. There is no published consensus for this number, but recall that last month it plunged 29 points to an 8-year low of -39.<br> <br> NZD/USD opens in Asia this morning at 0.6995 with NZD/EUR at 0.5937 and GBP/NZD at 1.9130.

United States Dollar

AUD / USD

Expected Range

The Dollar had a very poor day on Monday even if, with the benefit of hindsight, it is hard to pin the blame on any specific factor. Indeed, we’d repeat the wise words of Janet Yellen that “correlation does not imply causality”. Having opened in Sydney at 93.50, the USD’s index against a basket of major currencies reached a high of 93.55 in the first couple of hours of trading but from then on it was downhill all the way; falling in all three time-zones to a low of just 93.03 before rallying to 93.23.<br> <br> The blame for its decline cannot be placed on the equity market. The S+P 500 index added almost 20 points to yet another all-time record high with the Dow Jones Industrial average up almost 200 points. Nor can the finger of blame be pointed at the bond market. Ten-year US Treasuries were steady at 2.38% whilst 2-year yields climbed a couple of basis points to 1.83%. If political nerves were the culprit, this would surely have been reflected in a lower, not a higher, stock market. As for the day’s economic data, the NAHB homebuilders index smashed consensus expectations of 70 and rose to 74; its highest since December 1999.All we can say with confidence is that the Dollar fell. Be very wary of anyone who claims to know why.<br> <br> The US Dollar index opens this morning in Asia at 93.23 with all eyes still on the passage through Senate of the tax reform bill. US economic data for Tuesday are housing starts and building permits; rarely market movers but – as we saw Monday – sometimes markets move for no obvious reason at all.

By Nick Parsons

USD surged late Friday on tax reform hopes. NZD and AUD were the week’s top two currencies; can they sustain recent gains into the holiday season?


Australian Dollar

AUD

Expected Range

The Australian Dollar opens this morning after its best week for several months; rising for four consecutive days then only finally giving ground to a resurgent US Dollar in the last few hours of trading in New York on Friday. After the very poor performance of the AUD over the previous few weeks and the general softness in many of the incoming economic indicators, there is no doubt that investors were either outright short of the currency or underweight relative to their neutral benchmark weightings. The sharp rise in the Kiwi Dollar last Monday led to some closing of these short AUD positions and by the time of the labour market report on Thursday, there were huge sighs of relief from those investors who had exited their bearish trades.<br> <br> AUD/USD jumped to 0.7668 immediately after the employment numbers were published on Thursday and then onto a high of 0.7689 on Friday; its best level since November 10th. As it seemed the US tax reform bill would, indeed, finally be passed, US equities had a huge late session rally with the S+P 500 index up almost 1%. This dragged up the USD in its wake to leave the AUD at USD0.7641 at the New York close. Over the course of the whole week, the Australian Dollar was the second-best of all the major currencies we track here; just knocked off top spot by its trans-Tasman cousin.<br> <br> The focus of attention today will be the Australian Government’s Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook (MYEFO). Budgets in Australia don’t have the same drama as their British equivalent though they are far less drawn out than in the United States. They are only occasionally market-moving events but they do give the Government a good opportunity to make soothing noises to the international ratings’ agencies about economic growth and debt sustainability.<br> <br> The AUD opens in Asia this Monday morning at USD0.7653 with AUD/NZD at 1.0934.

British Pound

GBP / AUD

Expected Range

The British Pound matched the performance of its cricketers last week: a bright start, then collapse and capitulation. It began in the warm afterglow of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brussels deal on the Irish border though Tuesday’s inflation data then pulled the GBP lower. <br> <br> Just as investors were digesting the Fed Statement on Wednesday came news that the UK Government had been defeated on one of the night’s four parliamentary votes on Brexit. The implications of this for the British Pound appeared to us somewhat mixed. On the one hand, any defeat for the Prime Minister is something which will weaken her authority and arguably put her in a weaker negotiating position in Brussels. On the other, the substance of the 24-word Bill was to give Parliament a vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal. We wrote on Thursday morning that, “To the extent that it leaves the door open to a rejection of Brexit, this could perhaps be interpreted as a GBP positive, albeit not one which we’d put much weight on right now.” <br> <br> On Friday, it became clear that Prime Minister would be unlikely to dictate either the terms or the timetable for discussions on Phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations. Her EU counterparts refuse to be rushed and are arguing that no progress can be made until the UK Government sets out definitively what it wants to achieve. With the USD buoyant as the tax reform passage seemed set to pass and US stock markets surged, the British Pound plunged on Friday afternoon, ending the week almost on its lows at USD1.1315. From its recent high against the AUD it was down 5½ cents to 1.7425 whilst GBP/NZD was down just over 7 cents at 1.9055.<br> <br> The week ahead will again be dominated by Brexit, this time as the UK Government (542 days after the referendum!) is finally going to have a Cabinet meeting to decide what it wants from the negotiations. A long time has passed since Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s confident claim that he was “pro-cake and pro-eating it”.<br> <br> The GBP opens in Sydney this morning at USD 1.3321, AUD1.7415 and NZD1.9040. Their cricketers open at 132-4 in Perth. We wrote here on Friday that, “Those who love a bet will be wondering whether the currency or the sportsmen crumble first.” As it turned out, backing the double would have been the best bet…

Canadian Dollar

AUD / CAD

Expected Range

The Canadian Dollar spent the first few days of the week in a fairly narrow range, pulled up and down solely by movements in crude oil prices. It began at USD1.2855, reached a high of 1.2884 on Tuesday evening and a post-FOMC low of 1.2798. The highlight of the week, however, was a keenly-anticipated speech on Thursday from Bank of Governor Stephen Poloz which had the fascinating title “Things that keep me awake at night”. <br> <br> Overall, the context of his speech was that the Canadian economy is doing extremely well and is at a “sweet spot” in the economic cycle. “The economy has made tremendous progress over the past year, and it is close to reaching its full potential. We are very encouraged by this, and we are growing increasingly confident that the economy will need less monetary stimulus over time.”<br> <br> Needless to say, currency markets loved this speech. USD/CAD tumbled a full cent to a one-week low of 1.2735 and it was the best performing currency of the entire day, gaining even against a buoyant Australian Dollar. On Friday, however, the CAD was unable to resist in the face of the US Dollar’s late surge and USD/CAD ended the week very little changed from where it had begun at 1.2870.<br> <br> For the week ahead, there’s still plenty to come on the Canadian economic data calendar. Wednesday is wholesale trade, Thursday is CPI day and on Friday it’s the monthly GDP numbers for October (just one day after NZ finally gets round to publishing Q3 GDP data). First up today, though, are numbers on international securities transactions and consumer confidence. The Canadian Dollar opens in Asia this morning at USD1.2870 with AUD/CAD at 0.9850 and NZD/CAD at 0.9005.

Euro

AUD / EUR

Expected Range

The Euro had another disappointing week, failing to gain any upside traction even as incoming data continued to show the economic recovery in the Eurozone to be broadening and deepening. It opened in Asia on Monday morning at USD1.1765 but at its best spent barely 15 minutes on a 1.18 big figure before turning lower on Tuesday to the week’s low of 1.1724 as Press in Italy reported that President Sergio Mattarella will dissolve Parliament this month and set a March 4 election date. Given this uncertainty, 10-year Italian bond yields jumped 10bp. Although there was no contagion into other peripheral Eurozone bonds, investors haven’t recently needed much of an excuse to sell EUR and the Italian news was the trigger for Tuesday’s underperformance.<br> <br> Wednesday’s post-FOMC Dollar sell-off saw EUR/USD jump more than a cent, and on Thursday it reached its best level of the week at 1.1843, helped by very strong purchasing managers surveys: “The eurozone economy picked up further momentum at the end of 2017, with December seeing the fastest growth of business activity for nearly seven years. The best factory output and order book gains since 2000 pushed the manufacturing headline PMI to a record high, while an upturn in service sector to growth to the highest since early-2011 underscored the broad-based nature of the current surge in activity”.<br> <br> At the ECB meeting, new staff economic projections showed upward revisions to growth forecasts. 2018 GDP is now seen at 2.3% (previously 1.8%) with 2019 at 1.9% from 1.7%. 2018 CPI was nudged up from 1.2% to 1.4% though 2019 and 2020 were left unchanged at 1.5% and 1.7% respectively. The significance of the CPI forecasts is that on a 2-year horizon, inflation is not yet back at the ECB’s target of “close to but just below 2%”. This provides the justification for continuing the very accommodative monetary policy. <br> <br> By Friday’s close, the EUR had given up all of Thursday mornings gains and more; ending in New York at the session lows of USD1.1751 as the USD surged in a very illiquid market. <br> <br> EUR/USD opens in Asia this morning at 1.1745 with AUD/EUR at 0.6505. There’s no a great deal of economic news this week, though the highlight will be Tuesday’s German ifo survey and today’s final Eurozone CPI numbers.

New Zealand Dollar

AUD / NZD

Expected Range

The New Zealand Dollar ended a volatile week at the top of the pile; the best performer amongst all the major currencies.<br> <br> NZD/USD began at 0.6838 and jumped almost a full cent to 0.6930 during the first Asian session of last week on news of a new Governor at the RNBZ. Late in Monday’s US session, the pair broke above the late November high of 0.6943 and the much-improved technical chart picture left it well positioned to capitalise on the USD weakness after the FOMC Statement on Wednesday evening. By the New York close, NZD/USD was on a 70 cents handle for the first time since October 19th.<br> <br> Thursday saw a reversal lower in the NZD as the Government released its Half-Year Economic & Fiscal Update which was generally seen as being far too optimistic. Whatever the case, the NZD soon rebounded and by lunchtime in London on Friday it reached a fresh high for the week of USD0.7027 before succumbing to the US Dollar’s late surge to finish the week in New York at 0.6990. With the AUD/NZD cross falling very modestly from 1.0975 to 1.0930, this meant the Kiwi Dollar took the prize as the strongest currency of the week. The week ahead is packed with economic data as the official statisticians clear their diaries ahead of the local holiday season. Q3 GDP figures will finally be published on Thursday, whilst Tuesday we’ll get to see if the sharp fall in November business confidence has been at all reversed. Before then, today we get the performance of services index which will be watched to see if it can match the resilience of its counterpart in manufacturing.<br> <br> NZD/USD opens in Asia this morning at 0.6997 with NZD/EUR at 0.5959 and GBP/NZD at 1.9040.

United States Dollar

AUD / USD

Expected Range

The Dollar had a very volatile week but its index against a basket of major currencies ended almost exactly where it had begun at 93.50. On Monday the S&P 500 Index ended the day up 0.3% at 2,659; a new record close, led by the telecoms, technology and energy sectors. Tuesday brought the dollar’s high for the week at 93.81 as the Fed began its two-day FOMC meeting but then came news from a highly controversial Senate election in Alabama; a deeply conservative southern State. Mr. Trump had given enthusiastic support to a former judge, Roy Moore, who faced a series of allegations about misconduct and who had previously said that he does not believe that Barack Obama was born in the US and that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress. Mr. Moore was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones; a move which not only questioned the President’s judgment, but reduces the Republican majority in the Senate to just one seat.<br> <br> The Fed Statement on Wednesday noted, “the Committee continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions will remain strong.” In its new economic projections, it revised up 2018 GDP forecasts from 2.1% to 2.5% with further more modest upgrades to the outlook in 2019 and 2020. Though two of the nine voting members dissented, there were no downward revisions to future ‘dot points’ and the belief that inflation would indeed pick up was again reiterated.<br> <br> Despite what looked to be a very non-controversial Statement and subsequent Press Conference, the Dollar extended its decline in the last 2 hours of trading in New York, with the index falling to a 1-week low of 93.00. Thursday was pretty uneventful for the USD and Friday also got off to a sluggish start. From the New York opening on Friday, however, stocks began to surge on news that the last Republican hold-out on tax reform was now going to offer his support after being offered some concessions on child care provisions. The S+P 500 index jumped a stunning 25 points to a fresh closing high, dragging the USD index up three-tenths to end a volatile week exactly where it had begun at 93.30.<br> <br> The US Dollar index opens this morning in Asia at 93.50 with all eyes on the passage through Senate of the tax reform bill. Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a trip to the Middle East as the Republican majority is so slim the party can’t afford even to have one Senator away…

By Nick Parsons

USD volatile but net unchanged. EUR slides after ECB meeting. GBP mixed on Brexit news but AUD and CAD both surge.


Australian Dollar

AUD

Expected Range

The Australian Dollar had a much better day than its cricketers on Thursday, though few people would bet against a reversal of the fortunes of both by next Monday. It has now enjoyed four consecutive days of gains and there’ll be huge sighs of relief from those who observed the squeeze in the Kiwi Dollar on Monday and thought it might be prudent to scale back their Aussie shorts too. Having jumped from USD0.7630 to 0.7668 on publication of the latest jobs report, the AUD then managed to hold on to these gains for the next 18 hours, closing in New York around 0.7670.<br> <br> To recap the numbers, consensus estimates were for a 19,000 increase in employment with the jobless rate steady at 5.4%. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), employment actually jumped by 61,600 to 12.4 million in November. It was the largest monthly increase since October 2015, whilst the previous month’s figure of +3,700, was also revised up to show a gain of 7,800.<br> <br> The figures are arguably not quite as good as they look. Every month the sample of the population in the survey is rotated and it appears the incoming group may have had higher levels of employment than those who left the survey. Nevertheless, the rest of the report was very strong indeed. Full-time employment jumped by 41,900 to 8.5 million, beating a 19,700 increase in part-time employment which rose to 3.9 million. Over the last 12 months, full-time employment has increased by 304,600, with a 78,700 increase in part-time employment. Combining the two, total employment has increased by a huge 383,300 whilst the total number of hours worked by all Australians is up by 9.8 million hours, or 0.6%, to 1.7409 billion hours.<br> <br> The AUD opens in Asia this Friday at USD0.7675 with the AUD/NZD cross up almost exactly a cent from yesterday morning at 1.0970.

British Pound

GBP / AUD

Expected Range

The British Pound had a much better day than might have been expected on Thursday, rising against most currencies except the newly-buoyant Australian Dollar and Canadian Dollars. Its best performance came – in order - against the NZD, EUR and USD.<br> <br> Political commentators have been busy trying to work out the implications of the UK Government’s defeat on a parliamentary vote on Brexit. On the one hand, any defeat for the Prime Minister is something which will weaken her authority and arguably put her in a weaker negotiating position in Brussels. On the other, the substance of the new 24-word Bill is to give Parliament a vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal. Essentially, it means that MPs could reject the terms of any withdrawal — or amend the legislation to delay Brexit — if they are not satisfied with the deal negotiated. In the event of “no deal” the amendment could be used by MPs to try to reverse Brexit. To the extent that it leaves the door open to a rejection of Brexit, this could perhaps be interpreted as a GBP positive, although the immediate impact might well be to toughen the Government’s rhetoric. As with most things Brexit, it’s a mess. In economic data, retail sales rose a faster than expected +1.1% in November though the official statisticians cautioned they are having problems adjusting for the impact of Black Friday/Monday promotions and internet sales. Electrical household appliances, for example, jumped by nearly 9% in one month.<br> <br> Separately, the Bank of England MPC voted unanimously 9-0 in favour of no change in Bank Rate. Its accompanying Statement read very cautiously, stressing that the pace of future rate hikes would be very gradual and limited in extent. It reiterated its judgment that that “inflation is likely to be close to its peak, and will decline towards the 2% target in the medium term.”<br> <br> The GBP opens in Sydney this morning at USD 1.3440, AUD1.7510 and NZD1.9215. The cricketers open at 305-4 in Perth. Those who love a bet will be wondering whether the currency or the sportsmen crumble first…

Canadian Dollar

AUD / CAD

Expected Range

The Canadian Dollar did extremely well on Thursday and knocked the AUD off top spot in the one-day performance table. We’ve been flagging up here all week the fascinatingly-titled speech from Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz on “things that keep me awake at night”. He did not disappoint. He is always a wonderfully thought-provoking speaker, never afraid to go against the prevailing G7/BIS consensus and full of insight into the policy-making process. He is a very under-estimated Central Banker; erudite but self-deprecating in equal measure.<br> <br> His speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto is worth reading in full. To summarize briefly here, the three issues were cyber threats, high house prices and “The tough job market for young people”. He also threw in a wonderful dismissal of bitcoin: “the term “cryptocurrency” is a misnomer: “crypto,” yes, but “currency,” no. For something to be considered a currency, it must act as a reliable store of value, and you should be able to spend it easily. These instruments possess neither of these characteristics, so they do not constitute “money.”<br> <br> Overall, the context of his speech was that the Canadian economy is doing extremely well and is at a “sweet spot” in the economic cycle. “The economy has made tremendous progress over the past year, and it is close to reaching its full potential. We are very encouraged by this, and we are growing increasingly confident that the economy will need less monetary stimulus over time.”<br> <br> Needless to say, currency markets loved this speech. USD/CAD tumbled a full cent to a one-week low of 1.2735 whilst even AUD/CAD fell 40 pips from its high to open in Asia this morning around 0.9780.

Euro

AUD / EUR

Expected Range

Another day, another set of broad-based losses for the EUR which completely unwound all of Wednesday gains against the US Dollar and finished firmly in bottom spot on the one-day FX performance table. EUR/USD fell from a high of 1.1844 to 1.1772 with AUD/EUR up from 0.6470 to 0.6510.<br> <br> Yet again, the currency’s fall comes despite very positive incoming economic data; this time another very strong set of ‘flash’ PMI data in the Eurozone. Markit’s Press Release was full of seasonal good cheer. “The eurozone economy picked up further momentum at the end of 2017, with December seeing the fastest growth of business activity for nearly seven years. The best factory output and order book gains since 2000 pushed the manufacturing headline PMI to a record high, while an upturn in service sector to growth to the highest since early-2011 underscored the broad-based nature of the current surge in activity”.<br> <br> As for the ECB meeting, new staff economic projections showed upward revisions to growth forecasts. 2018 GDP is now seen at 2.3% (previously 1.8%) with 2019 at 1.9% from 1.7%. 2018 CPI was nudged up from 1.2% to 1.4% though 2019 and 2020 were left unchanged at 1.5% and 1.7% respectively. The Introductory Statement was basically a “copy/paste” job from October and Mr Draghi had so little to say the Press Conference actually finished 7 minutes ahead of schedule.<br> <br> EUR/USD opens in Asia this morning at 1.1795 with AUD/EUR at 0.6505.

New Zealand Dollar

AUD / NZD

Expected Range

Three straight days of gains proved to be quite enough for the New Zealand Dollar which found the air a bit thin above US 70 cents. It peaked just as Janet Yellen finished her last FOMC Press Conference at 0.7025 and has spent the last 24 hours edging steadily and gradually down to reach a low of 0.6981 before closing in New York around USD0.6990.<br> <br> On Thursday, the new Labour-led Government in New Zealand released its Half-Year Economic & Fiscal Update. It forecast that economic growth would average close to 3 per cent over the next five years, peaking at 3.6 per cent in 2019. Unemployment is also forecast to fall to 4 per cent, despite hikes in the minimum wage pushing wage growth significantly higher. The forecast sees revenue growth rising sufficiently to see net debt fall to below 20 per cent of gross domestic product by 2022, a core election promise of Finance Minister Grant Robertson.<br> <br> The general consensus amongst analysts locally is that the Government is being too optimistic and has presented what is more likely a “best-case” scenario. Responding to criticism, Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf said the forecasts assumed the sharp drop in business confidence since the election was assumed to be only temporary and would soon rebound. NZD/USD opens in Asia this morning at 0.6990 with NZD/EUR at 0.5930 and GBP/NZD at 1.9215.

United States Dollar

AUD / USD

Expected Range

A quick look at the US Dollar index tells you that the USD had a good day on Thursday. A closer look behind the scenes, shows this is not strictly true. The EUR had a very poor day and as it comprises 57% of the index (which we highlighted here earlier this week), so the USD index was able to fight back. Having tumbled from a high on Tuesday afternoon in New York of 93.81, it had fallen almost a full point to 92.95 in Sydney yesterday morning. As EUR/USD then fell more than half a cent, the USD index climbed back to 93.30; regaining almost exactly half its losses over the period.<br> <br> No matter how many times the Fed Statement is read and re-read (and your author has been doing this for longer than is healthy!) it is extremely difficult to pin the blame for any of the Dollar’s declines on the text therein: “the Committee continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions will remain strong.” Its new economic projections revised up 2018 GDP forecasts from 2.1% to 2.5% with further more modest upgrades to the outlook in 2019 and 2020. Though two of the nine voting members dissented, there were no downward revisions to future ‘dot points’ and the belief that inflation would indeed pick up was again reiterated.<br> <br> We’d say the US Dollar fell despite the Statemen, not because of it. And if we may re-quote Dr. Yellen’s very last sentence from her very last FOMC Press Conference, “let me emphasize the correlation is not causation.” OK, she was talking about the shape of the yield curve rather than currency markets but it’s a point that always bears repetition when looking at the multiple drivers of foreign exchange each day.<br> <br> In US economic data, retail sales increased more than expected in November as the holiday shopping season got off to a strong start. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.8% after an upwardly-revised 0.5% increase in October. The annual pace of growth accelerated to 5.8%. The Labor Department meantime said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 225,000 for the week ended December 9. That was the lowest reading since mid-October when claims dropped to 223,000, a level not seen since March 1973.<br> <br> The US Dollar index opens this morning at 93.00 with Friday bringing data on the Empire manufacturing survey and industrial production.

By Nick Parsons

FOMC brings no surprises but USD suffers sharp sell-off. AUD and NZD best performers, UK Government defeated in Brexit vote.


Australian Dollar

AUD

Expected Range

The Aussie Dollar had a good day on Wednesday, getting back on to a US 76 cents big figure for the first time in just over a week even before the FOMC Statement. This was partly because traders didn’t want to be caught short of AUD ahead of today’s Australian labour market report, and partly because the takeover of Sir Frank Lowy's Westfield Corporation - in a deal said to be worth AUD$32.7 billion – has prompted thoughts of some ‘pre-hedging’ of the foreign exchange transactions associated with the deal.<br> <br> Founded in Sydney in 1953, Westfield currently has interests in 35 shopping centres in the US and the UK and its chairman received a knighthood from the Queen at Windsor Castle just a few days ago for his contribution to the British economy. French company Unibail-Rodamco will acquire Westfield for a combination of shares and cash, and though the 35% cash element won’t be paid until next year, there could be some early structured purchases of Aussie Dollars, whether in the spot, forward or derivatives markets.<br> <br> Looking forward to today’s Australian economic data, consensus estimates are for a +15k increase in employment with the jobless rate steady at 5.4%. Unlike many countries elsewhere in the world, Australia doesn’t produce monthly earnings data alongside the labour report; instead the wage price indices are available only quarterly and we’ll have to wait until February for the latest updates.<br> <br> Having reached a pre-FOMC high of 0.7612, the Aussie Dollar extended its gains to a best level just above 0.7630 (the highest in 8 days) which is where it opens in Asia this morning with AUD/NZD at 1.0870.

British Pound

GBP / AUD

Expected Range

The Pound had a very mixed session on Wednesday ahead of a key Parliamentary vote that would require the Prime Minister to write the terms of her Brexit deal into a law that would have to be passed by Parliament. Just as we publish this morning note in Sydney, it has been announced that Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a defeat with 12 of her own backbenchers joining with Opposition MP’s to defeat the Conservative/DUP Coalition Government. We will have to wait until the start of the UK morning on Thursday to assess the implications of this in a little more detail.<br> <br> The latest UK economic data had something for everyone but on balance were a bit disappointing. The total jobless number fell by 26,000 in the last 3 months to 1.43m, taking the unemployment rate down to a 42-year low of just 4.2%. But, the total number of people in work fell by 56,000 in the last quarter; the biggest drop in more than 2 years. The simultaneous fall in employment and unemployment is possible because there has been a large increase (115,000 over the quarter) in the number of economically inactive. As for wages, the 3-month average measure of total pay rose to 2.5% but is still below the rate of inflation. Real wages in the UK have now fallen for 8 consecutive months and show few signs of picking up any time soon.<br> <br> Ahead of the FOMC Statement, the pound rose against the USD and CAD, but fell once more against the Australian and New Zealand Dollars. With the USD generally in retreat after the Fed, GBP/USD extended its gains to 1.3410, though the Pound fell further against the relatively buoyant Australian and New Zealand Dollars. GBP opens this morning at USD1.3410 with GBP/AUD at 1.7565 and GBP/NZD1.9085.

Canadian Dollar

AUD / CAD

Expected Range

There’s been so much to keep the foreign exchange market busy over the past few days that the Canadian Dollar has largely been overlooked. For most of Wednesday, USD/CAD was trapped in a very narrow range from 1.2845 to 1.2875 even as oil prices fell quite sharply during the North American morning. NYMEX crude fell almost a full dollar to $56.74; its lowest level since last Friday morning even though industry data showed a larger-than-expected drawdown in U.S. crude stockpiles.<br> <br> Sometimes, the CAD is correlated almost 100% with intra-day and day-to-day swings in oil prices, yet at others it seems to have no impact whatsoever. It’s certainly frustrating both for those investors seeking to set trading rules and the analysts who are trying to explain the changes in the external value of the currency.<br> <br> We’ll finally get to hear what issues are keeping Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz awake at night when he speaks at lunchtime in Toronto today. The consensus amongst analysts locally is that he’ll focus more on the negatives for the economy as the positives would presumably allow him to sleep soundly!<br> <br> With the US Dollar in a broad-based sell-off after the FOMC, USD/CAD opens at 1.2795 with AUD/CAD at a 6-week high of 0.9775.

Euro

AUD / EUR

Expected Range

In a pre-FOMC session in which the dollar generally struggled after the core CPI numbers, the euro found it difficult to capitalise. In part this is due to renewed uncertainties around Italian politics and Press reports locally that President Sergio Mattarella will dissolve Parliament this month and set a March 4 election date. Under the Italian Constitution, the vote has to be held before May 20th. <br> <br> Paolo Gentiloni on Monday celebrated his one-year anniversary as Italy's Prime Minister, an office he took after Matteo Renzi resigned following a humiliating defeat in a national referendum. A new electoral law known as “Rosatellum” had to be passed in October because Italy’s two houses of Parliament had different election systems. Under the Rosatellum law, there will only be a clear-cut winner if one party or bloc receives over 40 percent of the vote. <br> <br> Recent opinion polls show a centre-right coalition ahead, followed by the Five Star Movement and Gentiloni's Democratic Party, but all of them several points away from the 40% bar. Given this uncertainty, 10-year Italian bond yields yesterday jumped 10bp. Although there was no contagion into other peripheral Eurozone bonds, investors haven’t recently needed much of an excuse to sell EUR and the Italian news was the trigger for its latest underperformance.<br> <br> Away from the serious but sometimes very tedious business of politics, there’s an ECB Council Meeting at lunchtime on Thursday at which new staff economic projections will be unveiled. With Eurozone monetary policy likely to be on hold for a very long time, the main interest amongst analysts is the colour of Draghi’s tie. Yes, honestly!! If we look back over the last three years, there have been 5 announcements on QE. On four of these he wore a blue tie, the first three being the same blue tie he wore when he famously vowed to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro”. October was a light purple. Since January 2015, he has never announced a policy easing whilst wearing a red tie. So, if you’re at your screens for 2.30pm Frankfurt time, watch to see how EUR/USD reacts as he walks into the Press Conference…<br> <br> With the FOMC Press Conference now behind us, EUR/USD opens in Asia at 1.1818 with AUD/EUR at 0.7635.

New Zealand Dollar

AUD / NZD

Expected Range

The Kiwi Dollar had held on to a US 69 cents big figure ever since 01.00am New York time on Monday morning and reached a 3½ week high of 0.6995 even before last night’s Fed Statement. After Janet Yellen’s final FOMC Press Conference, the US Dollar suffered a sharp and broadly-based sell-off. NZD reached US 70 cents for the first time since October 19th and opens in Asia around USD0.7020.<br> <br> Yesterday in New Zealand, the latest data on food prices matched the consensus of analysts’ forecasts, falling -0.4% m/m in November. Lovers of economic data always have plenty to feast on from NZ’s official statisticians. We learned that lower fruit and vegetable prices were driven by a 6.5% fall for vegetables. Tomatoes, broccoli, and lettuce led this fall. Fruit prices rose 3.7%, driven by higher prices for nectarines and apples, slightly offset by lower strawberry prices. Elsewhere, and as shoppers around the world will be painfully aware, annual butter prices increased 48% to reach another record high. The average price of the cheapest available 500 gram block was $5.74 in November 2017, compared with just $3.88 a year ago. <br> <br> Let’s see if the official number-crunchers can make today’s data on agricultural production and Friday’s vehicle registrations just as interesting…

United States Dollar

AUD / USD

Expected Range

After seven days without a fall (six up and one unchanged) the USD was arguably ripe for a bit of a correction ahead of last night’s FOMC Statement and Press Conference. Having touched 93.81 on Tuesday, its index against a basket of currencies was already slipping back as the CPI figures were released. Headline CPI came in as expected at 2.2% y/y but the core ex-food and energy number fell to 1.7%.<br> <br> Fully three-quarters of the increase in the all-items CPI from 2.0% to 2.2% was due to energy prices whilst car insurance, new and used vehicle prices also increased. The core measure excludes these items and was depressed further by a 1.3% m/m drop in apparel; the biggest monthly decline since September 1998. Immediately prior to the Fed announcement, the USD index was down almost 0.4% from Tuesday’s high at 93.46.<br> <br> The Fed Statement noted, “the Committee continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions will remain strong.” In its new economic projections, it revised up 2018 GDP forecasts from 2.1% to 2.5% with further more modest upgrades to the outlook in 2019 and 2020.

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