Currencies Struggle, All Eyes on Consumer Comeback Next Week

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Currencies Struggle, All Eyes on Consumer Comeback Next Week
Daily FX Market Roundup June 12, 2020

Equities rebounded on Friday but currencies failed to follow suit. There was no specific catalyst for the stock market rally outside of the fact that Thursday was the worse day for stocks since March so a relief rally is not unusual. US data beat expectations with consumer confidence rising in June according to the University of Michigan report. The uptick caught no one by surprise as the prior rally in stocks and state reopenings were sure to boost sentiment. However concerns about a second wave remain, casting doubt on the overall recovery which prevented currencies from extending their gains in the NY session.

Aside from the safe havens, sterling struggled the most as UK data missed expectations. Industrial production and monthly GDP contracted more than forecast while inflation expectations declined in May. The only good news was the trade deficit which narrowed but the headline is misleading as the improvement was due to weaker imports and exports. As the UK struggles to reach a trade agreement with the EU, trade activity will only suffer. Eurozone industrial production on the other hand beat expectations allowing euro to outperform sterling.

Between mid-May and early June, currencies and equities rallied on the prospect of recovery. Next week we’ll get a chance to see just how good these recoveries have been. Lockdown measures led to depression like economic activity in March and April but we’re looking forward to a number of May economic reports in the week ahead. Last month, countries around the world eased lockdown restrictions with many US states following suit. The hope is that by removing restrictions, economic activity will recover and that’s what central bankers have suggested as well. China, the US, UK and Canada will release May retail sales and investors will be eager to see if there’s a meaningful consumer comeback. Unfortunately economists are not looking for major improvements. For the US, they are looking for 7.2% increase in spending with only a 3.9% bump up excluding auto and gas purchases and for the UK, they estimate a 5% increase in retail sales.

Given how low these forecasts are, we think there’s a greater chance of an upside than downside surprise. If retail sales rises more than expected, particularly in the US, we should see a recovery in equities and a relief rally in USD/JPY. At the end of the day, unless reopenings cause a second wave of COVID-19, the US economy is on a path to recovery with gradual improvements in data expected. But at the same time since the jury’s out on the US’ ability to avert a second wave, especially given the new highs in virus cases in states across the US, the number of daily new infections will have just as significant of an impact on market flows as economic data.

Aside from these retail sales reports, there are also three central bank monetary policy announcements, Australian employment and New Zealand GDP scheduled for release. Between the Bank of Japan, Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank, the BoE is the only one expected to ease monetary policy. Unlike the Federal Reserve, the BoE is less opposed to negative rates. Last month, they said they are examining the option for the first time ever and this revelation sent GBP sharply lower. As most policymakers are skeptical of their effectiveness, the central bank will most likely raise bond purchases rather than cut rates but they’ll probably make it clear that the option remains on the table. As a result, sterling will most likely extend its losses in the week ahead. No action is expected from the BoJ but the SNB could take negative rates lower or talk down the currency as they won’t be happy with the recent slide in EUR/CHF.

Kathy Lien
Managing Director

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