Covid Wave Knocks Euro Down and to new 6-year Lows Against the Swiss Franc

Covid Wave Knocks Euro Down and to new 6-year Lows Against the Swiss Franc

Overview:  Concerns about the virus surge in Europe cut short the euro's bounce and sent it back below $1.1300 and are also weighing on central European currencies, including the Hungarian forint, despite yesterday's aggressive hike of the one-week deposit rate.  Austria has reintroduced a hard 20-day lockdown.  Germany's health minister warned that the situation deteriorated and vaccines were not enough to break the wave.  He was explicit that a lockdown cannot be ruled out.  The US dollar is trading broadly higher.  Only the yen is resilient on the day, but sterling is the only major currency that has edged higher this week.  The Scandis and euro are off more than 1%.  Speculation that Turkey may announce measures over the weekend to stabilize the lira may be helping to deter new sales today after yesterday's rout.  In the nine-day drop through today, it is depreciated by almost 15%.  The JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is off for the fourth consecutive session to bring this week's loss to more than 2%, the most in five months.  Equities do not know of the consternation in the foreign exchange market.  Disappointing Alibaba results weighed on the Hang Seng (~-1%), while most other large regional bourses but Taiwan and India closed the week on an up note.   Europe's Stoxx 600 snapped a six-day advance yesterday. It was only the second loss since October.  It began firmer today but has reversed lower, putting at risk the six-week rally.   US futures are mixed, with the NASDAQ outperforming.  Bond markets are in rally mode as well.   The US 10-year yield is off three basis points to approach the week's low near 1.53%.  European bonds are off mostly 3-5 basis points, even in the UK, where retail sales surprised on the upside.  Gold is steady, finding support near $1850.  Oil initially extended yesterday's recovery but is reversing lower, leaving the January WTI contract set to test yesterday's low near $76.45.  This is the fourth consecutive weekly fall in crude oil.  European natural gas (Netherlands benchmark) is off 4.4% today, the third drop in a row, and pares the week's gain to almost 19%.  In Singapore, iron ore prices jumped 5.7% to break a five-week slide that saw prices tumble by about 28%.   Copper is firmer and paring this week's loss to around 2%.  

Asia Pacific

There were two developments in Japan to note.  First, October CPI was largely in line with expectations.  Surging gasoline prices (seven-year highs) helped keep the headline rate positive for the second month (0.1% year-over-year).  Excluding fresh food, the core rate was steady at 0.1%.  However, the deflationary forces are evident when fresh food and energy are removed.  The measure deteriorated to -0.7% from -0.5%, the most since June (-0.9%).   

Second, Prime Minister Kishida unveiled an overall package of JPY78.9 trillion (~$690 bln). It is larger than the previous two pandemic packages. "Fiscal measures" refer to spending, investment, and loans, and this is seen worth about JPY55.7 trillion.  It is not clear yet, how much represents new spending as opposed to the reallocation of funds from earlier budgets that were not used. However, it appears to be about JPY32 trillion of new spending.  

The Chinese yuan, up a modest 2.1% for the year, is the strongest currency.   Against a trade-weighted basket (CFETS), the yuan is pulling back from a six-year high set earlier this week as the euro recovers a cent.  Consider that the yuan has appreciated by more than 9% against the euro and 11.5% against the yen this year.  That means that investment in China has the same tailwind as the dollar and is compensated a bit for the relative lack of transparency and liquidity.  The Financial Times estimates that foreign holdings of Chinese bonds and stocks rose to around $1.1 trillion at the end of September, about a 13% increase this year.  China's stock market has underperformed this year, and the CSI 300 is off around 7% this year.  On the other hand, China's bonds have fared well.  It is the only 10-year bond that has not weakened this year.  China's figures show foreign direct investment has risen by almost 18% this year through October to nearly $142 bln.  

The dollar is posting an outside down day against the Japanese yen by first rising above yesterday's high before reversing and taking out yesterday's low. It is approaching the week's low near JPY113.75 in the European morning.  Below there, support is seen around JPY113.60.  A break would warn of a return to JPY113.00.  The Australian dollar has been sold to its lowest level since October 6, when it recorded a low of almost $0.7225.   It has broken the trendline that connected the August and September lows (~$0.7250).  The September low was around $0.7170 and maybe the next important technical target.  The dollar is trading with a firmer bias against the Chinese yuan, but the greenback remains in the range set on Tuesday (~CNY6.3670-CNY6.3965).  The dollar gained on the yuan four sessions this week, the most since July, but the net gain of less than 0.2% still shows an extraordinarily steady exchange rate.   With the yuan near six-year highs against its trade-weighted basket (CFETS), the PBOC warned against one-way moves and encouraged financial institutions to bolster fx risk management.  It set the dollar's reference rate at CNY6.3825, slightly above expectations (Bloomberg survey) for CNY6.3822.  


The stronger than expected October retail sales capped the week's data that points to a rebounding economy and boosts the chances of a rate hike next month.  A strong jobs report was followed by a larger than expected rise in CPI and PPI.  Retail sales jumped 0.8% in October, and the September series was revised to flat from -0.2%. It was the first increase since April.  Pre-Xmas sales were reported.  Separately, the UK government reported that the cost of servicing the national debt has risen more than three-fold over the past year, leaving the budget deficit higher than anticipated.  It appears that the swaps market is pricing in a 15 bp hike at the December 16 BOE meeting, though some are talking about a bigger move.   

Several ECB officials, including President Lagarde, have successfully pushed back against expectations of a 20 bp rate hike next year that had appeared discounted by the swaps market earlier this month. The market has pushed it into early 2023.  The implied yield of the December 2022 Euribor futures contract has fallen 20 bp this month.  The December 2022 Eurodollar futures contract is moving in the opposite direction.  The implied yield has risen by about 4.5 bp this month.  The net result is the US premium has increased to over 125 bp, the highest since last March.  In late 2019, the premium was around 180 bp.  This is recognized as a factor helping lift the dollar against the euro, and it appears to have become more salient recently.  

The euro's bounce yesterday, its first gain in seven sessions (since the US CPI shocker), stalled near $1.1375, where a 780 mln euro option expires today.   The euro traded quietly in Asia before being sold aggressively as news of the virus hit the wires.  The euro traded through $1.1285 before catching a bid.  Resistance now will likely be encountered around $1.1320.  The euro is posting its first back-to-back weekly of more than 1% since March 2020.  Sterling is also sliding back toward the week's lows, just above $1.3400.  A break could signal a test on the $1.3350 area, but it appears stretched on an intraday basis.  While the euro-sterling cross is practically flat, the euro has punched below CHF1.05 for the first time in six years.  It would not be surprising to learn that the SNB has been intervening.  There appears to be little chart support until closer to CHF1.0250.


The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office offered its evaluation of the Biden administration's Build Back Better initiative.  It sees $1.636 trillion in spending over the next decade and almost $1.27 trillion in revenue.  That leaves a deficit of $367 bln.  A notable difference between it and the administration is how much more revenue will be generated by increasing the number of IRS agents.  Even if it passes the House of Representatives, it will likely be marked up in the Senate.  The jockeying for position and spin around it will likely dominate the session, which sees no US economic reports outside of the rig count later today.  The Fed's Clarida and Waller speaker today.  It seems that most market participants still see the Fed behind the curve and disagree with our idea that to secure the ability to respond to a wide range of possible outcomes, the Federal Reserve may accelerate its tapering starting in January.  

It is not clear exactly when the debt ceiling will be reached, but it is being played.  The Democrats do not want to lift it through the reconciliation process, though they have forced the Republicans to do so in the past.  The Republicans appear to have the discipline and will to oppose.  No one seems to think the US will really default, and getting even this close seems undignified.  Yet, the desire to avoid being caught out encouraged investors to demand a high yield on the four-week bill sold.  Yesterday's auction saw the yield more than double to 11 bp (annualized).  It is the highest yield since July 2020.  In contrast, the eight-week bill, which is thought to be beyond the shenanigans, yield slipped to 4.5 bp from six previously and a higher bid-cover ratio.  

Canada reports September retail sales figures today.  After a 2.1% rise in August, some weakness is expected.  Ahead of it, the Canadian dollar is trading at new lows for the week, though it is faring better than the other dollar-bloc currencies.  The US dollar is approaching the (61.8%) retracement objective of the decline since the CAD1.29 level was tested on September 20.  The retracement level is near CAD1.2665, and a break would target CAD1.2700-CAD1.2750.  The upper  Bollinger Band is found near CAD1.2655 today.   The Mexican peso is also under pressure.  It, too, has fallen to a new low for the week today.  The greenback looks set to test the eight-month high set earlier this month near MXN20.98.  Note that the central bank's Deputy Governor warned that inflation was accelerating, and it could rise to 7% this month and 7.1%-7.3% next month.  In October, the CPI stood at 6.24% year-over-year.  Banxico meets next on December 16, the day after the FOMC meeting.  Lastly, we note that the Brazilian real is off for four consecutive sessions coming into today.  The dollar closed above its 20-day moving average against it yesterday and looks poised to probe above BRL5.60 today. The high for the month was closer to BRL5.70.  


Marc Chandler

Marc Chandler

Marc Chandler has been covering the global capital markets for more than 30 years, including stints as the global head of currency strategy for both HSBC and Brown Brothers Harriman. Chandler recently joined Bannockburn Global Forex as a Managing Director and Chief Market Strategist in 2018.

A prolific writer and speaker, Chandler appears regularly in the financial media. He is often quoted in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post, among others. Marc also provides his insights and commentary on the markets on the most widely watched financial news channels, including CNBC, Bloomberg TV, CNN, and Fox Business.

Marc’s first book, Making Sense of the Dollar, was published by Bloomberg Press in 2009 and received a Bronze Award from Independent Publishers. Chandler's second book, Political Economy of Tomorrow, was published in February 2017.

Chandler is also an honorary fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and has been named a Business Visionary by Forbes.

Currently, Chandler teaches at New York University Center for Global Affairs, where he is an associate professor. He is also an honorary visiting professor at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

Though a Chicago native, and lifelong Cubs fan, Chandler currently resides in New York City with his wife, Jeannine, and son, Nathan.