This is a busy week for the financial markets. There are 3 central bank monetary policy announcements along with inflation, employment and consumer spending numbers scheduled for release from all corners of the globe. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will also deliver his semi-annual testimony on the economy and monetary policy. With these big event risks on the calendar, there are no shortage of market moving opportunities. The action heats up tonight with the release of Chinese trade data and U.S. consumer prices. Nothing was missed on Monday as there were no major economic reports released.
Still the S&P 500 and Nasdaq climbed to new all time highs while the U.S. dollar strengthened against all of the major currencies. This price action tells us that investors expect good U.S. data and optimism from Powell. The steadiness of Treasury yields suggests that investors are not worried about overly hawkish comments. Tomorrow’s consumer price report should confirm that inflation is on the rise but softness in other recent economic reports reduces the urgency to act. There may be further talk of taper from Powell this week but more as an exploratory idea rather than a necessary imminent change.
The Canadian dollar is my favorite currency this week because they are the only central bank that could reduce stimulus. Although the loonie lost value against the U.S. dollar on Monday, it outperformed all other major currencies. Oil prices declined but that wasn’t a big problem because crude still hovers near multi-year highs. Instead, investors are bidding up the loonie ahead of the Bank of Canada’s monetary policy announcement. The BoC was the first major central bank to taper asset purchases and there’s talk that they could make another move on Wednesday. Manufacturing activity improved, job growth was very strong last month, vaccination rates are rising and restrictions are easing. These positive developments will strengthen the central bank’s case for policy normalization but in many ways, the BoC already telegraphed their less dovish intentions. In the central bank’s latest quarterly Business Outlook Survey, they reported that many executives are preparing for a burst of demand which would validate any hawkish adjustments.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is also widely expected to lay the groundwork for additional tightening but the New Zealand dollar did not see the same degree of demand as the Canadian dollar. Part of that may be due to weaker card spending and earlier pressure on the market. When stocks turned positive, NZD came off its lows. New Zealand has weathered the pandemic far better than many other countries but with rising COVID-19 cases in neighboring Australia and lockdowns across the country, the RBNZ may find it premature to talk tightening. Last week, a number of local banks forecasted a rate hike in November. Overnight, the shadow board was evenly split on tightening. There’s little doubt that the Reserve Bank will be the among the first to raise interest rates which should extend the New Zealand dollar’s outperformance but without momentum on the currency’s side, it is less appealing than the Canadian dollar.
The negative implications of Australia’s lockdown and the prospect of softer Chinese trade and GDP reports should keep the Australian dollar under pressure. Euro and sterling also lost value against the greenback. Softer German wholesale prices justified euro’s slide but sterling should be trading stronger ahead of next week’s full reopening. The fact that it isn’t may be a sign that investors are more worried about the Delta variant than Prime Minister Johnson.
Kathy Lien Managing Director of FX Strategy BK Asset Management