Dollar Remains Fragile

The US dollar looks vulnerable to additional losses next week.  While we had correctly anticipated the greenback’s losses last week, we had expected it to begin recovering ahead of the weekend.   This did not materialize and, leaving aside the yen, the dollar finished the week near its lows.   Generally speaking, the technical outlook for the greenback has soured and, in fact, warn of some risk accelerated losses in the period ahead.  


Nor can participants count on the economic calendar to stem the dollar’s rout.  The US has an actively slate of economic reports next week as the government catches up with the delay from the shutdown, but nothing to put the tapering back into December.   


At the same time, while there is some expectation the ECB may do something more in a few weeks, following up on the recent repo rate cut, it is still far too early to expect the ECB to adopt what we have dubbed  as “nuclear options”, such as a negative deposit rate or quantitative easing. Since it just adjusted the price of money (theoretically), the next step will likely seek to influence the quantity, perhaps a change in collateral rules or a reduction in reserve requirements.  


The euro’s resilience in the face of the repo rate cut is demonstrated by its 1% rise on a trade-weighted basis, which is the key metric of its potential economic impact.  EONIA is essentially unchanged (about half of a basis point lower) since the rate cut (which is one should have expected, as EONIA trades closer to the zero deposit rate than the repo rate).  


The euro has recorded higher lows for six consecutive sessions  It tested the $1.35 in the second half of last week, but did not manage to close about it.  This corresponds to a retracement objective of the nearly 5.5 cent decline  beginning Oct 25. Assuming this level is convincingly breached, we see scope for the euro to rise 1% next week toward $1.3630.   A move below $1.34 would weaken the outlook, but it probably requires a close below the 100-day moving average, which held on this basis, despite some intra-day penetration recently.  It is near $1.3365 now.  


Sterling made new highs for the month ahead of the weekend and now seems poised to re-challenge what appeared to have been a double top made in Oct near $1.6260.  Sterling had gone through the neckline (~$1.5890) early in the week, though not on a closing basis and the quickly rebounded, thanks to a favorable employment report and more optimistic BOE.  Its resilience was reflected in the speed at which the market shrugged off the weak retail sales report (-0.7% rather than flat as the consensus expected).  


The dollar did rise to two month highs against the yen and finished the last week with two consecutive closes (of the North American session) above the JPY100 for the first time in four months.  Contrary to the general assertion, it cannot be simply attributed to Fed tapering ideas.   The yen’s 1.1% loss against the dollar occurred as the US premium over Japan (10-year interest rate differential) actually fell roughly 9 bp last week, slipping lower in three consecutive sessions before the weekend.  


The key test for the dollar is awaiting closer to the JPY100.60, the September high, which is just below the high from the second half of July set near JPY100.85.  A break of this would bring into view the early July high near JPY101.55, which is the high posted since the decline from the year’s high set in May (~JPY03.75) to the early June low (just below JPY94).    Support has been established around JPY99 and it may require a break of that to signal a high is in place.  


Yen weakness is more pronounced on the crosses than against the dollar.  Indeed, the yen’s weakness appears to be, at least in part, not a dollar story.  It has fallen nearly 2% on a trade-weighted basis so far this month. Sterling is trading a multi-year highs against the yen and euro is testing the year’s high.  The New Zealand dollar is testing the JPY84 level that held in both Sept and Oct.  The Canadian dollar is at two-month highs against the yen.   


With the third arrow of Abenomics still apparently a work in progress, any appearance of relying on currency depreciation may face criticism by the US and Europe.  Chinese official silence on the issue is noteworthy.   Perhaps, its refrains from criticizing so as not to encourage criticism of its exchange rate policy, though that doesn’t stop the PBOC from time to time of being critical of the US (market determined) exchange rate stance.  


Turning to the dollar-bloc, from a technical perspective the US dollar is set to fall further.  The head and shoulders topping pattern we discussed last week proved for naught.  Even though the $0.8200 neckline was violated on Nov 12, there was no follow through selling and the Kiwi rebounded smartly (almost 2%) to vie with the euro as the strongest of the major currencies on the week.  It seems that the rule here, and in sterling, is play the range until convincingly violated.   If applied to the yen, it would seem to warn against playing the break out.  


The Australian dollar was largely range bound for most of last week, but this is increasingly looking like a base, rather than a pause before the next leg lower.  The key may be the downtrend line drawn off the Oct 23 high near $0.9760 and Nov 6 high near $0.9545.  It comes in near $0.9400 on Monday, though falls toward $0.9325 by the end of the week.    Technically, a move above $0.9400 could spur another 1.0-1.5 cent advance.  


The move above CAD1.05 on Nov14 appeared to have exhausted the USD bulls.  A break now of CAD1.0430 (where a retracement objective and 20 day moving average lay) would confirm a near-term greenback high), and ideally CAD1.04, would suggest a move toward at least the lower end of the 5-month trading range (~CAD1.0250-CAD1.03).  


The Mexican peso’s 1.75% rise last week edged out the South African rand as the strongest of the emerging market currencies.  The US dollar’s decline brought it within a spitting distance of the uptrend line drawn off the Sept and mid- and late-Oct lows.  It comes in near MXN12.91 on Monday.  A break may signal another 1% decline in the dollar.  


Observations from the speculative positioning in the CME currency futures:  


1.  As was the case during the last reporting period, the two significant adjustments to speculative position were cut of gross long euro positions (by 17.2k contracts) and the jump in gross short yen positions (23.6k contracts).  Gross long euro positions were cut by 50k contracts over the past two week and as of Nov 12, were the lowest since mid-September (86.1k).   The gross short yen positions have increased by 37k contracts over the same period (to 116.1k).  


2.  The gross long Swiss franc positions have been cut by a third in the past two weeks (to 14.1k contracts).  At  43.9k contracts, the gross long sterling position was the smallest in two months.  The Australian dollar saw the largest jump in gross shorts (8.9k contracts) since May and at 56.3k contracts is the most in two months.  


3.  The net long euro position has been cut by 80% since late October (now stands at 16.8k contracts).  The net short yen position is the largest since May (to 95.1k contracts).  


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