• The US dollar is lower against nearly all the currencies today as risk appetites remain robust, even though the PMI for the world’s second largest economy has fallen back into contraction mode.
• We anticipated follow-through dollar selling at the start of the week but expect that it will bottom today or tomorrow as the focus turns to US employment reports.
• China’s August composite PMI fell below the 50 boom/bust level for the first time since February 2020. The PBOC will likely respond with more support and a cut in reserves may be the favored tool.
• Japan offered a welcome surprise with a better than expected employment report and a smaller than expected decline in industrial output.
• Eurozone inflation jumped to 3.0% in August as the monthly increase of 0.4% was twice what economists expected. The core rate rose to 1.6% from 0.7%.
• US data features house prices and the Conference Board’s confidence measures. Canada reports June and Q2 GDP.
• Chile is expected to deliver a 50 bp hike to bring the policy rate to 1.25%. It raised rates by 25 bp in July and signaled the start of a tightening cycle. July CPI stood at 4.5%.
Overview: The dollar has been sold against nearly all the currencies today. Among the majors, the Antipodeans and Swedish krona lead the move. The euro rose briefly through $1.1830 in the European morning, its best level in a little more than three weeks. The JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is rising for the seventh time in eight sessions. The risk-on mode to finish the month is evident in equities as well. Following the new record highs in the US, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed for the sixth session in the past seven and has taken out the two-and-a-half-month downtrend. Europe’s Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is rising for its third consecutive session, while US futures indices are extending their recent gains. Debt markets are quiet. The US 10-year is hovering around 1.28%, while European yields are 1-3 bp firmer, following the higher than expected August CPI. The UK Gilts are a notable exception, and the yield is nearly two basis points lower at 0.66%, perhaps helped by sterling, which is at a new two-week high. Gold found support near the 200-day moving average (~$1809) and is trading inside yesterday’s range when it peaked around $1823. Oil prices are surrendering yesterday’s late gains. OPEC+ meets tomorrow. Output is scheduled to rise by 400k barrels per day, but there are concerns about the strength of demand in the face of the spread of Covid. October WTI finished last month near $73.25. It is now near $68.40 after last week’s 10.6% rally. China’s iron ore contract snapped a six-day advance today, slumped almost 2.5%. Copper is up slightly for the third consecutive session and the seventh in the past eight. The CRB Index rose yesterday for the fifth time in the last six sessions and set a new high for August. It is within striking distance of the six-year high set at the end of July.
The risk-on move today is surprising given the poor Chinese PMI. The manufacturing PMI slipped a little more than expected to 50.1 from 50.4, but the real shocker was the non-manufacturing PMI. It slumped to 47.5 from 53.3. The median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey anticipated a pullback to 52.0 from 53.3. This drove the composite to 48.9, its first reading below the 50 boom/bust level since February 2020. The composite peaked in May at 54.2 and has fallen in each of the following three months. Recall that the PBOC cut reserve requirements in July. Today’s dismal reading is likely to fan expectations for further accommodation.
On the other hand, Japan’s data was generally better than expected. Industrial output fell 1.5% in July. That may not sound so good, but it followed a 6.5% jump in June and was better than the 2.5% drop of the median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey. In addition, the unemployment rate unexpectedly slipped to 2.8% from 2.9%, and the job-to-applicant ratio rose to 1.15 from 1.13, defying forecasts for a decline. Lastly, housing starts also rose more than expected. However, with a formal Covid emergency covering more than 70% of the population, the recovery is not expected to gain much traction until Q4.
The virus could be knocking Australia into a contraction. The Q2 current account surplus was a little smaller than expected but was offset to some extent by the upward revision to Q1. To the extent that Australia’s current account is driven by trade flows, we are concerned that the rise in prices has concealed a decline in volumes. Separately, Australian building approvals slumped in July by 8.6%, more than expected, and follows a 5.5% decline in June (initially reported a -6.7%). The final August PMI due later this week is expected to confirm the 43.5 preliminary composite reading, though the risk is on the downside.
The dollar remains confirmed to a narrow range below JPY110.00, and it is holding above yesterday’s JPY109.70 low, where a nearly $400 mln option is set to expire later today. Recall that the dollar settled last month slightly above JPY109.70 too. After consolidating its pre-weekend gain yesterday, the Australian dollar was pushed higher to $0.7340 today to test the two-week high. Initial support is seen around $0.7320. Some buying may have been related to the A$588 mln option at $0.7300 expiring today. The next area of chart resistance is seen in the $0.7370-$0.7380 area. Despite the disappointing data, the dollar eased toward the lower end of its recent range against the Chinese yuan. It found support in front of CNY6.4570. The yuan, like the yen, is nearly flat on the month. The dollar ended July near CNY6.4615. The PBOC set the dollar’s reference rate at CNY6.4679, tight to expectations of CNY6.4680.
Today’s upside surprises by French and Italian inflation readings helped lift the aggregate CPI to 3.0% from 2.2% in July. The median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey was for a rise to 2.7%. The core measure also rose more than expected to stand at 1.6%, up from 0.7% in July. The month-over-month increase of 0.4% was twice what had been expected. Recall that Germany’s CPI actually slipped to 3.4% from 3.5% when reported yesterday, while Spain surprised with a 3.3% year-over-year rate instead of 2.9%. Italy’s August CPI was “supposed” to fall by 0.2% but instead rose by 0.3%, and the year-over-year rate surged to 2.6% from 1.0%. French inflation rose 0.7% this month to lift the year-over-year rate to 2.4% from 1.5%.
However, the French surprise was even more pronounced in the July consumption report. The median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey called for a 0.2% increase in consumer spending. Instead, it crashed by 2.2%. Consider that French consumer spending fell by an average of 0.1% a month in the first six months of the year. The only kind thing to be said is that it has become a volatile number under covid. Germany had a pleasant surprise. Its unemployment rate fell this month to 5.5% from 5.6% in July (that was initially reported at 5.7%). The unemployment queue fell by 53k, more than the 40k decline forecast. Note that Germany lost about 650k jobs in Q2 20 and has since gained back about 400k.
The euro posted an outside up day before the weekend, and follow-through yesterday was limited to about $1.1810. Additional buying today lifted it through $1.1830, its best level since August 6. It is rising for the seventh session in the past eight. An expiring option at $1.1875 for almost 720 mln euros seems too far to be relevant today, but tomorrow there is a nearly 650 mln option at $1.1825 that will be cut. The $1.1850-area may be sufficient to cap it today. Sterling edged up to $1.3800, a two-week high. Soft consumer credit and mortgage lending figures may have encouraged the pullback in Europe to the $1.3760 area. The 200-day moving average is found near $1.3810. Meanwhile, the euro is approaching the GBP0.8600 cap that has held this month.
Pending July, home sales and the Dallas Fed’s manufacturing survey were consistent with the recent string of US reports that have been weaker than expected. As the second month of the quarter winds down, look at Q3 GDP forecasts. The Fed’s GDP nowcasts have softened. The NY Fed has Q3 GDP tracking 3.8%, while the Atlanta Fed’s model puts it at 5.1%, with the St. Louis Fed at 4.9%. This makes the median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey of 6.9% seem high. But it is not just that the Fed’s models are updated more frequently. The last four contributions to the Bloomberg survey averaged 7.7%. However, it was flatted by one forecast that is the highest in the survey, for 11.2%. The others at 6.5%-6.6% were still above the Fed’s trackers.
Today’s US data features house prices (FHFA and CoreLogic). House prices are still rising. The Conference Board’s August confidence report will also be released. The market expects a softer report, but the risk is on the downside after the University of Michigan’s survey showed a sharp drop (10-year lows). Tomorrow, the ADP reports its private-sector job estimate. The Bloomberg survey median is for 625k after a 330k increase in July. Canada reports June monthly GDP. A sharp recovery is expected after a 0.3% contraction in May. Growth in Q2 is seen at 2.5% annualized. Mexico’s central bank releases its inflation report. While price pressures are still on the upside, the two hikes (July and August) may see Banxico pause in September. Brazil sees June unemployment (14.4% vs. 14.6%) and its July budget. Of note, reports suggest that Brazil has surpassed the US in the proportion of adults with a single vaccine. Lastly, Chile’s central bank is expected to hike its overnight target rate by 50 bp to 1.25%. It lifted the key rate by 25 bp in July and signaled the start of a sequence.
The US dollar is trading at ten-day lows against the Canadian dollar. It has entered an area that may prove sticky ahead of today’s options expiry. There are options for $1.2 bln at CAD1.2560. The low in Europe has been CAD1.2570. There is another option that may be being absorbed for $645 mln at CAD1.2575. The greenback is fraying the uptrend drawn off the July 30 low and comes in today near CAD1.2585. Initial resistance is now pegged in the CAD1.2600-CAD1.2620 area. The US dollar is seeing more follow-through selling against the Mexican peso after posting an outside down day at the end of last week. Dollar selling yesterday was limited to MXN20.11 and the 200-day moving average. Selling today has pushed the greenback to roughly MXN20.0650, an eight-day low. The next area of support is around MXN20.00.
Bannockburn Global Forex