Time to Take More Defensive Positioning

FX volatility levels remain at the lower end of ranges as investors increasingly price a Fed pause this summer. But US debt ceiling fears are on the rise and US-China tension is showing no signs of easing.

FX volatility levels remain at the lower end of ranges as investors increasingly price a Fed pause this summer. But US debt ceiling fears are on the rise and US-China tension is showing no signs of easing.

USD: Debt ceiling fears are ticking higher

What does this all mean for FX? The challenging investment environment makes it hard to market a 'sell dollar, buy everything' thesis. Even though I think US data will slow and that the Fed will ease, that story of a benign dollar decline may not emerge until the second half. Instead, I think investors will increasingly favour defensive positions in the Japanese yen and Swiss franc - at least on the crosses if not against the dollar. So far example a cross rate like AUD/JPY could be heading back to the 86/87 lows over the coming months.

For the DXY itself, I think USD/JPY could drag it lower and feel it is far too early to buy the dollar on any kind of flight-to-quality trade. A dollar rally might only be the final chapter in a debt ceiling crisis should US money markets seize up. Before that, I see downside pressure building on USD/JPY again and favour it moving towards the lower end of its new 130-135 range.

GBP: Softer March retail sales should not deter a 25bp rate hike

UK March retail sales were a little softer than expected last Friday morning. James Smith, ING's UK economist thinks that these figures are volatile month-to-month. In volume terms, sales have essentially begun to flat-line since late last year and with the real wage story set to improve over coming months and confidence up in the latest figures, the worst is probably behind us for UK retail. However, the Bank of England is far more interested in inflation and this week's sticky readings point to a 25bp hike on 11 May.

CHF: A good defensive play

EUR/CHF seems to be consistently pressing the lower bounds of recent trading ranges at 0.9800. The defensive global environment is probably playing a role here. Less transparent is what the UBS takeover of Credit Suisse means for EUR/CHF. I tend to think it means de-leveraging and demand for the Swiss franc. At the same time, the Swiss National Bank is still threatening more rate hikes - suggesting they are still keen for some nominal Swiss franc appreciation. The bias for EUR/CHF looks lower, but the SNB will likely continue to manage this actively - suggesting a decline to the March lows near 0.9700 will be gradual.

EUR: Focus on the PMIs

EUR/USD is holding well in the 1.09-1.10 range as investors debate the future extent of European Central Bank tightening. Last week we saw the flash April PMI releases for the eurozone, Germany and France. The divergence between stronger services and still weak manufacturing is expected to continue - unless China's reopening has provided some surprises in terms of manufacturing confidence.  As above, I do not think the environment is right for the kind of benign EUR/USD rally we occasionally see in FX markets. Instead, it looks as though EUR/USD needs to spend some more time in the 1.09-1.10 region.

This content may have been written by a third party. ACY makes no representation or warranty and assumes no liability as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, nor any loss arising from any investment based on a recommendation, forecast or other information supplied by any third-party. This content is information only, and does not constitute financial, investment or other advice on which you can rely.

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