US Bond Market Sell-Off Sets Tone for FX and Risk Assets

US Bond Market Sell-Off Sets Tone for FX and Risk Assets

FX Daily: US bond market sets the FX tone

The ongoing sell-off in the US bond market continues to set the tone – not just for FX markets but for risk assets in general. A heavy slate of US Treasury auctions this week and rising concern over a US government shutdown on Saturday is sending implied volatility higher and may trigger some more profit-taking on carry trade strategies.


USD: Focus on Treasuries again

The dollar continues its grind higher and probably the biggest market talking point is the ongoing bearish steepening of the US Treasury curve. Speaking to our bond strategists, they think this is currently being driven by two factors. The first is the ongoing upward revision to where the Fed Funds rate settles after the next Fed easing cycle. Looking at the forward curve for one-month USD OIS rates, investors now see the low point in any future Fed easing cycle at around 4.00% in three years's time. Rather incredibly, at the start of this year, the market had seen the low point for Fed Funds in three years' time down at 2.70%.

The second factor weighing on Treasuries is this week's $134bn auction of two, five and seven-year notes – which takes place over the next three days. This comes ahead of a potential US government shutdown this Saturday, where hard-right Republicans in the House seem to be holding out against a stop-gap spending bill. In the background remains a threat of another downgrade of US sovereign rates on the back of an 'erosion of governance'.

Apart from the rise in US yields, we have now started to see a rise in implied volatility in the US Treasury market. This will prove a headwind to carry trade strategies and could prompt the unwinding of some of the most heavily invested positions. We would worry about the Mexican peso here, which also faces Banxico unwinding its dollar forward book in less than benign conditions. Another popular target currency in the carry trade – the Hungarian forint – may actually find some support from the local central bank today (see below). 

In general, however, the continued rise in US yields is making for a less benign environment and favours risk reduction. Whilst higher US yields may push USD/JPY close to 150, they also increase the risk of an equity setback. That is why we think an instrument like the one-month USD/JPY downside risk reversal may be too conservatively priced. And in general, we would say commodity currencies remain vulnerable, especially those like the South African rand and Latam currencies – this latter group were hit hard during the early August sell-off in Treasuries.

DXY can probably stay bid through this if activity currencies come under pressure and technical analysts will be dusting off calls for a move to the 107.20 area.

US Bond Market Sell-Off Sets Tone for FX and Risk Assets

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