The Sep policy meeting from the BoE saw money markets rushing to price in a much faster and more aggressive policy path than previously expected. Even though this of course falls in line with our bias for the Pound, we do think the market is a bit too aggressive too quick right now. The bank did explain that they now see above 4% by Q4 of this year, and the possibility of more sticky was the key reasons why we saw a 7-2 vote split with Saunders and Ramsden both dissenting to cut purchases. However, it’s important to note that the remaining 7 members still see as transitory, and the fact that they expect CPI above 4% means any prints that don’t come close to that poses downside risks. Furthermore, even though the bank said their expectations of modest tightening has strengthened, the admitted that lots of uncertainties remain. A big one of these is the labour market, where even though the number of furloughed staff have decreased, that decrease has materially slowed from August which poses more uncertainty for the labour market. Thus, even though our bias remains unchanged, and we see the bank lifting rates in Q1, we do think the over optimistic moves in money markets poses short-term headwinds.
2. The country’s economic developments
The successful vaccination program that allowed the UK to open up faster and sooner than peers provided a favourable environment for Sterling and the strength of the economic recovery has meant solid growth differentials favouring GBP. However, a lot of these positives are arguably priced, and the recent slowdown in activity data that suggests peak growth has been reached could mean an uphill push for GBP to see the same size of outperformance we saw earlier. With our above comments about money markets, it also means that there is now more risk to downside surprises than was the case a few months ago. Even though the current fuel challenges should not be enough to derail the economic recovery, the NatGas shortage is much more serious and if not resolved quickly could add to some additional price pressures which in the past few sessions have seen even more aggressive pricing from money markets for additional tightening.
3. Political Developments
Even though a Brexit deal was reached at the end of last year, some issues like the Northern Ireland protocol remains, and with neither side willing to budge right now it seems like a never ending can kicking could see these issues drag on for a long time. For now, Sterling has looked through all the rigmarole and should continue to do so as long as the cans are kicked down the road.
4. CFTC Analysis
Latest CFTC data showed a positioning change of +2182 with a net non-commercial position of +1964. The downside in the Pound this week was something else, slicing through key technical levels on majority of the GBP crosses. Even though the over-aggressive money markets and subsequent moves in SONIA we think can explain some of the angst, there is also a far less complicated reason for the downside. Even though large speculators were neutral on Sterling, leveraged funds had a very sizable net-long built up in Sterling in a very short space of time, which meant when key technical levels were breached it was a very fast run to the exists and fast money scrambled to get out of dodge. With the reprieve in Sterling only starting Thursday and CFTC cut off on Tuesday, we would expect to see a sizeable unwind of those leveraged funds longs. Furthermore, after the run lower, we are actively looking to add back to GBP on the long side.
More hawkish than expected sums up the Sep meeting. The FOMC gave the go ahead for a November tapering announcement as long as the economy develops as expected with their criteria for substantial further progress close to being met. The biggest hawkish tilt was the announcement about a faster pace of tapering, with Chair Powell saying there is broad agreement that tapering can be concluded by mid2022. projections were hawkish, with the Fed projecting Core PCE above their 2% until 2024. On labour, Chair Powell said he thought the substantial further progress threshold for employment was ‘all but met’ and explained that it won’t take a very strong September jobs print for them to start tapering as just a ‘decent’ print will do. The 2022 Dots stayed very close to the June median, but the rate path was much steeper than markets were anticipating with seven hikes expected over the forecast horizon (from just two previously). It is important here to note though that even though the path was steeper, if one compares that to a projected Core PCE >2% for 2022 to 2024, the rate path does not exactly scream fear when it comes to . All in all, it was a hawkish meeting. Interestingly, it took markets about three days to realize this as the expected price action only really took hold of markets a few days later. A faster tapering was a key factor we were watching for an incrementally tilt in the outlook, so market’s initial reactions were surprising. However, with the recent breakout in both US yields and the USD, this has given us more confidence in moving our fundamental outlook for the Dollar from Neutral to Weak .
2. Real Yields
With a Q4 taper start and mid-2022 taper conclusion on the card, we think further downside in real yields will be a struggle and the probability are skewed higher given the outlook for growth, and policy, and higher real yields should be supportive for the USD in the med-term .
3. The global risk outlook
One supporting factor for the USD from June was the onset of downside surprises in global growth. However, recent Covid-19 case data from ourworldindata. org has shown a sharp deceleration in new cases globally. Using past occurrences as a template, the reduction in cases is likely to lead to less restrictive measures, which is likely to lead to a strong bounce in economic activity. Thus, even though we have shifted our bias to weak in the med-term , the fall in cases and increased likelihood of a bounce in economic activity could mean downside for the USD from a short to intermediate time horizon (remember a re-acceleration in growth and potentially = reflation)
4. CFTC Analysis
Latest CFTC data showed a positioning change of +1361 with a net non-commercial position of +26461. Positioning isn’t anywhere near stress levels for the USD, but with both large speculators and leveraged funds sitting in net-long territory, it does mean that the Dollar could be more sensitive from mean reversion while still elevated after the recent push higher into new YTD highs.
5. Economic Data
This week we’ll finally have the September NFP print, but all the previous excitement about this event has been mitigated with the Fed’s previous meeting. The Fed’s comments that they don’t need to see a huge or stellar jobs print but that a decent print will do, has largely taken the sting out of the Sep NFP print. The current concerns about means that the Average Hourly release could be of more interest for market participants to see whether the current labour supply shortage sparks further acceleration in wages.
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