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US December NFP +156,000 – Wage Growth Will Spur the FED to Accelerate Rate Increases

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that total nonfarm payroll increased by 156,000 in December and the unemployment rate ticked up a tad to 4.7%. The revisions to the previous months saw the October number drop from 142,000 to 135,000 while the November figure was revised up to 204,000 from 178,000. The all important (ok not really) 3 month average now stands at 165,000 per month. Of more importance is that average hourly earnings in December increased by 10 cents to $26.00. This takes the 2016 average to 2.9% and this will get the FED to increase rates at a faster clip as wage growth typically is the precursor to inflation in a tight employment market such as in the US.

As tough as it is to find work these days, one can’t ignore the average overall unemployment rate being below 5% for all of 2016. By historical standards, 5% is considered to be ‘full employment’ which is when all available labor resources are being used in the most efficient way possible. Those that are unemployed within the ‘full employment’ are considered to be structurally or cyclically unemployed. When full employment is encountered, wages increase as the supply of labor shrinks and employees become more valuable. As those who are employed receive increasing wages, their disposable income increases and this combination has previously produced inflation.

This is the type of inflation that the FED will notice. This is the type of inflation that the FED has wanted to see for many years. This is the inflation that has to be contained by raising interest rates. This is the inflation that many central bankers in the developed world want themselves. This is the inflation that we have been hearing about that was expected in the ‘medium term’. This is the inflation that could quite possibly wreck the government-induced bubble in the bond market and send the US dollar to new highs in 2017.

As the inflation scenario unfolds in the US, the FED will quickly have to be seen to be ‘out in front of it’ meaning that they have the inflation genie under control. The FED will have to raise rates sooner and higher than the market previously thought. The difficulty here is that the widening interest rate differential globally will continue to fuel demand for the US dollar. In addition to the widening interest rate differential between the US and say Europe (socialized economy) or Japan (Abi-normal), the fiscal machine looks set to roar again in the US.

Before the new president is even sworn in on the 20th the rumors are circulating and theories are being tested on what business in America might be like with a Trump presidency. It will be very interesting to see who, what, where, when, and how the fiscal beast is unleashed and this change in approach provides my macroeconomics students with a daily update on how Trumpism is going to make America great again.

Rising US interest rates and the belief that a fiscal boost from the incoming administration will be enough to keep the US dollar headed higher, and probably a great deal higher is 2017. If the US bond market falls out of bed and volatility continues to rise in that market one should also brace for increased currency volatility as well. Stay long US dollars my friends.

 

keith@underwoodfx.com

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Trump Change

What the Trump victory means for the FX market

OK so you’re as surprised as everyone else at the outcome of the US election and you have made currency predictions for next year. You probably added a slightly larger degree of uncertainty after the shock UK Brexit vote, but you none the less polled your FX banks for their forward looking strategic FX views, did your own research, and felt reasonably comfortable with your work product. What does a President Trump mean for the FX market? Who are the winners and losers?

Winners

  1. The US Dollar
  2. The Swiss Franc
  3. The Japanese Yen

The US dollar is still the most traded currency in the $5.1 trillion a day FX market according to the latest BIS Triennial Survey. It has been strengthening since 2011 (see broad US Dollar index chart) fredgraphin the belief that the FED will normalize (raise) interest rates as job creation continues and inflation reaches 2%. As a macroeconomics professor, my US Dollar view is torn between what appears to be two divergent Trump policies, isolationism and lower taxes. Isolation has an implicit lower dollar to help US exports, while lower taxes foster a stronger dollar over time as the US economy strengthens.

In isolationism, I don’t see Trump supporting a ‘weak dollar’ or ‘a weaker Dollar’. Weak is not in the Trump vocabulary. Period. I think the US Dollar will rise as the US economy breaks with Obama policies and adjusts positively to the Trump lower corporate taxes (the US has one of the worlds highest corporate taxes) that promote higher growth and higher tax revenues (higher tax rates increases tax avoidance and lowers tax receipts), higher spending, and higher inflation. The US Dollar is set to rise further.

The Swiss Franc is regarded as a safe haven currency when uncertainty and volatility is prevalent in the markets. Short-term traders (generally trades held less than an hour or two) will trade the franc back and forth today to make a few shekels and for those that have less enthusiasm for a Trump economic turnaround, they will find themselves increasing their exposure to the franc. As my regular readers know, I’m not the biggest fan of the Swiss Franc, given their negative interest rate policy (Negative Interest Rates: A Disincentive to Risk), but the safe harbor status of the franc can’t be ignored in times of uncertainty. Over the course of 2017 the Swiss Franc will maintain its store of value in the FX market.

The Japanese Yen has been manipulated for years by the BOJ trying to keep the yen artificially weak in the face of badly performing monetary policies and unrealistic inflation goals. Readers of my posts know well that I don’t believe that manipulation in FX ever works (3 Currency Intervention Lessons Never Learned) over time and because the Japanese have been at this for many years I think the Yen is poised to strengthen once this calamity curtain is pulled back. I have recommended buying Yen from 112.00 and I see little standing in the way of 95.00 aside from verbal intervention, which doesn’t work.

Losers

  1. Mexican Peso
  2. Canadian Dollar
  3. China

Trump campaigned on terminating NAFTA and calling it the worst trade deal ever signed anywhere. Our neighbors to the North and South will see their currencies suffer as uncertainty over a future without NAFTA lingers.

China is and has been an easy target for Trump. He will continue to skewer the Chinese on trade and currency manipulation all during his presidency. He will do this to keep the appearance of pressure on the Chinese to enact reforms that benefit the US but the reality is that China does nothing that is not in the interest of China.

keith@underwoodfx.com

www.UnderwoodFX.com

 

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OPEC – Organization of Poor Examples of Coordination

Ho hum. The latest agreement out of OPEC is a proposed reduction of 800,000 barrels per day. Handily, the actual specific details of the reduction has yet to be finalized and that leaves who, what, where, when, and how to be sorted in November. Let’s see what can be agreed in a warring region of the world where trust is at a low and adherence to production limits are historically slippery for some.

 

800,000 may be an overly optimistic cut given that Iran has only just agreed to join the discussion. They have refused, on several previous attempts; to even show up to talks. Other oily actors like Russia seem intent to play ball by their own rules, so don’t plan for anything that doesn’t benefit them. As a non-Opec member they are likely to not participate in a reduction. Even if they did would you believe them?

 

Should Opec succeed in their production cut theatrics and sustain a higher price of $55-$60 per barrel, the higher oil price will encourage shale producers to dust off the projects that were uneconomical while oil was below $40-$45 per barrel. The higher the price goes the more potential supply realized by projects left idle before.

 

So what’s this have to do with the foreign exchange market you ask? Well, while all this hoopla is going on we will see increased headline trading (quick, sharp, short movements) in spot FX with currencies that are correlated to the price of oil. Correlation is the generalized movement of one asset versus another (either positive or negative). So if oil increases in value you might see an increase or strengthening of the Canadian dollar (oil exporter) versus a country that is a consumer (importer) of oil such as the European Union or Japan. Other exporters that could also benefit are Russia, China, Brazil and Mexico.

 

Oil has been trading sideways all year long (see chart) and anytime you have a prolonged period of consolidation or range trading, the breakout move (out and away from the previous range) will be that much greater and volatile. Think of a Jack-in-the-box toy that is wound and wound and wound until it pops. This is typically what happens the longer that a tradable asset stays within a predefined or preexisting range. Oil could be in this type of situation, but so too are many other tradable assets, due to concerted government intervention in the interest rate markets keeping rates low or even negative, for longer. See ‘Negative Interest Rates: A Disincentive to Risk’ for my pessimistic views on negative rates.

Trading range oil 2016

As such, the inflection points or ranges that has developed over months and years will ultimately break and bring with it severe liquidity shortages and violent gapping movements. Could OPEC produce a breakout moment with a viable and substantial agreement to cut production? My opinion is that they could, but we have been down this path many, many times before and I can’t really get that excited about a re-run where there is no real emergency for the cartel members to act. Expect a bland communiqué that expresses dismay at the present low price of oil, the need to keep the global economy growing (to use more oil) and production cuts that will be in the best interest of the cartel.

 

keith@underwoodfx.com 

Traded Markets Intelligence

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FX Volatility on the Rise


Major currency pairs (GBP, YEN, USD, CHF) have seen significant increases of implied volatility over the course of the last several months.
Implied cross volatility pairs such as AUD/YEN and NZD/YEN have moved into crises levels not seen since 2011.
Equity portfolio managers re-hedging (liquidating dollar positions), against established long USD positions.
Market uncertainty of what the Yellen cakehole cannon might say tomorrow.


 

Equity portfolio managers (PM’s) are heading for the door. They have been selling winners (Netflix and Amazon for example) to lock in profits against the losses incurred on their dogs (European energy and banking). This liquidation (fancy word for sell at market order or ’Get me out!’) of positions is forcing PM’s to hedge their resulting USD exposure. They have sold USD aggressively over the last several months in the face of a market that has been long USD positions.

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Notable events the week of 6th April 2015

Opening pitch of the 2015 Major League Baseball season is 8 p.m. EST Sunday, April 5 between the Cardinals and the Cubs and the 28 remaining teams will open the season on April 6.  After this past winter in the Northeast, baseball is a welcome sign of the impending warmer weather that is long overdue.  I make no predictions on the World Series other than to say Go Yankees!

Monday the 6th:

Japan Leading indicator (Prelim.) index 104.9 exp. versus 105.50 prior

US Fed’s Dudley Speaks on Economic Outlook in New Jersey

Canada Ivey PMI index 49.5 exp. versus 49.7 prior

US ISM Non-Manufacturing index 56.6 exp. versus 56.9 prior

 

Tuesday the 7th:

New Zealand RBA overnight rate 2.25% exp. versus 2.25% prior

Spain, France & Germany Services PMI

Eurozone Composite PMI index 54.1 exp. versus 54.1 prior

Eurozone Services PMI index 54.3 exp. versus 54.3 prior

UK CIPS/Markit Servies PMI index 57 exp. versus 56.7 prior

Eurozone PPI %m/m -0.7 exp. versus -0.9 prior

US Fed’s Kocherlakota speaks in North Dakota

 

Wednesday the 8th:

Japan BoJ Policy statement and Governor Kuroda press conference

German factory orders (sa) %m/m 1.5 exp. versus -3.19 prior

Swiss CPI %m/m 0.1 exp. versus -0.3 prior

US Fed’s Dudley speaks on monetary policy in New York

Canada Minister Olivers to speak on state of the Canadian  economy

Japan BoJ MPC- Overnight rate % 0.1 exp. versus 0.1 prior

 

Thursday the 9th:

German industrial production %m/m 0.1 exp. versus 0.6 prior

UK BoE Monetary policy committee meeting and rate decision

UK BoE MPC – APF total 375 bn exp. versus 375 bn prior

UK BoE MPC – Base rate % 0.5 exp. versus 0.5 prior

Canada Building permits %m/m 8.5 exp. versus -12.9 prior

Canada House price index %m/m 0.1 exp. versus -0.1 prior

US Initial claims 278k exp. versus 268k prior

 

Friday the 10th:

China CPI %y/y 1.3 exp. versus 1.4 prior

China PPI %y/y -4.7 exp. versus -4.8 prior

Swiss Unemployment 3.2% exp. versus 3.2% prior

France Industrial production %m/m -0.5 exp. versus 0.4 prior

France Manufacturing production %m/m 0.0 exp. versus -0.1 prior

UK Industrial production %m/m 0.3 exp. versus -0.1 prior

UK Manufacturing production %m/m 0.3 exp. versus -0.5 prior

Canada Housing starts 170k exp. versus 156.3 prior

Canada Net change in employment -10k exp. versus -1k prior

US Fed’s Lacker speaks on economic outlook in Florida

US Import price index %m/m -0.6 exp. versus 0.4 prior

US Fed’s Kocherlakota speaks in Minnesota

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US March Nonfarm Payrolls Dissapoints

Total US nonfarm payroll employment rose by 126,000 in February and the unemployment rate remained at 5.5%. Job gains continued in professional and business services, health care, and in retail trade. Revisions from the previous months where January was revised down from +239,000 to +201,000 and the change for February was revised from +295,000 to +264,000. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February were 69,000 lower than previously reported. This takes the 3-month average gains to just 197,000 per month, from 288,000 previously and ends the 12-month streak of job gains above 200,000 for the month.

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The Top 3 Reasons Greece Will Remain in the Eurozone

Consider the old adage of real estate where location, location, location are the sole determination of a property value. Now ponder the situation that the Eurozone finds itself in with the poor southern country of Greece. Long a basket case economically with it’s reliance on tourism and the joke of a tax system, Greece will not be leaving the Eurozone, even though it probably should get the boot. No, Greece will stay in the Eurozone because of politics, politics, politics.

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Notable events the week of 16th March 2015

Monday the 16th:

US Empire State Survey index 8 expected versus 7.78 prior

US Capacity Utilization 79.5% expected versus 79.4% prior

US Industrial Production %m/m 0.2 expected versus 0.2 prior

US NAHB Builders Survey index 57 expected versus 55 prior

ECB President Draghi Speaks in Frankfurt

Tuesday the 17th:

Eurozone HICP %m/m 0.6 expected versus -1.6 prior

Eurozone ZEW (Economic Sentiment) index 53.4 expected versus 52.7

German ZEW (Current Conditions) index 52 expected versus 45.5 prior

German ZEW (Economic Sentiment) index 59.5 expected versus 53 prior

US Housing Starts k 1050 expected versus 1065 prior

ECB’s Nouy Speaks in Frankfurt

US Federal Reserve FOMC meeting

Wednesday the 18th:

UK BoE MPC minutes released

UK Claimant Count Change -32.5k expected versus -38.6k prior

UK ILO Unemployment Rate 5.6% expected versus 5.7 prior

US FOMC – Fed Funds Rate 0.25% expected versus 0.25% prior

Thursday the 19th:

US Initial Claims 305k expected versus 289k prior

US Leading Indicator %m/m 0.3 expected versus 0.2 prior

US Philadelphia Fed Survey index 8 expected versus 5.2 prior

Friday the 20th:

German PPI %m/m 0.2 expected versus -0.6 prior

Canada CPI %m/m 0.7 expected versus -0.2 prior

Canada Retail Sales %m/m -0.5 expected versus -2 prior

Fed’s Lockhart Speaks on Monetary Policy in Georgia

Fed’s Evans Speaks on Monetary Policy in Georgia

A Currency Affair

Quick, discreet, and so worth the risk.

Keith@UnderwoodFX.com

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The Fed’s Dual Mandate

Every person that has taken a macro-economic course is aware of the Fed’s dual mandate, but for those that haven’t, a bit of history to get this blog post going. In 1977, Congress amended The Federal Reserve Act, stating the monetary policy objectives of the Federal Reserve as:

     “The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.”

The dual mandate being consolidated down to maximum employment and stable prices, which equates to approximately 5.35% unemployment rate and 2% inflation. With the economy creating about 260,000 jobs a month and the unemployment rate at 5.5%, the Fed is accomplishing the employment mandate. Unfortunately, the inflation rate is running well below the 2% target rate and, by it’s own admission, the Fed really doesn’t think it will reach that level until 2016, as stated by is most recent economic assessment from December 2014. Their data is below:

We are in the midst of the most dramatic deflationary pressures on the US economy since the 2008 crisis. May I remind you of the effects of dramatically lower oil, a strong US dollar, and tighter money supply had on US CPI?

I am not suggesting that we have negative CPI in our midst, but I can’t ignore the potential for downward pressure on inflation with these powerful forces, once again acting in unison. In 2008 when oil (WTI) fell 69% and the dollar trade weighted index (TWI) soared 20%, CPI dropped from 5.5% to -2%! In the last year, oil is 58% lower and the dollar TWI is 11.4% higher. A back of the envelope estimation is that CPI could drop 3% or 4%? If the Fed acts according to it’s dual mandate, I can’t see how it moves rates higher, while CPI has the historical prospect of falling significantly in the coming months. Yikes!

Next weeks Fed meeting should prove interesting because the world will be watching to see if they remove the word ‘patient’ from their statement, which would signal that they are open to raising (normalizing) rates. While this development, if it occurs, will be seen as opening up the potential to raise rates, it will be difficult for voting members to square with the Fed’s dual mandate and raise rates while inflation is poised to head lower.

 

www.acurrencyaffair.com

 

Quick, discreet, and so worth the risk.

 

Keith@UnderwoodFX.com

 

 

 

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US February Nonfarm Payrolls

The headline number is that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 295,000 in February and the unemployment rate nudged down to 5.5% from 5.7% previously. Job gains occurred in food services and drinking places, professional and business services, construction, health care, and in transportation and warehousing. Added to this are revisions from the previous months where December remained at +329,000 and the change for January was revised from +257,000 to +239,000. With these revisions, employment gains in December and January were 18,000 lower than previously reported. This takes the 3-month average gains to 288,000 per month.

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