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Dollar Cast Adrift by Yellen, Looking for a Spark to Reignite a Trend

Dollar Cast Adrift by Yellen, Looking for a Spark to Reignite a Trend

2016-04-02 01:32:00
John Kicklighter, Chief Currency Strategist
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Dollar Cast Adrift by Yellen, Looking for a Spark to Reignite a TrendDollar Cast Adrift by Yellen, Looking for a Spark to Reignite a Trend

Fundamental Forecast for Dollar: Neutral

  • Persistent NFPs and labor data this past week was defused by Janet Yellen’s cautious tone in her forecast speech
  • A meeting with Janet Yellen and former Fed heads Bernanke, Greenspan and Volker may provide key insight
  • See our 2Q forecasts for the US Dollar and market benchmarks on the DailyFX Trading Guides page

The US Dollar has struggled for trend recently; and given the fundamental and market conditions backdrop, that is unlikely to improve in the coming week. For the Greenback’s own landscape, rate speculation has been materially crippled by the combination of the FOMC’s downgrade to its rate forecasts and Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s cautious tone on her outlook these past weeks. This will not prevent scheduled event risk from arising in the market, but it will lower its capability for generating a Dollar response. Meanwhile, broader volatility measures have significantly deflated from their remarkable levels at the beginning of the year. That temper speculators’ activities and certainly make the currency’s return to its haven status that much more difficult to inspire.

Monetary policy has both represented to the Dollar’s most prominent catalyst these past years and also its biggest disappointment in recently. When the cloud of accommodative monetary policy finally lifted and the market started to speculate on the eventual first rate hike from the Federal Reserve, the currency responded with an impressive climb. Not only did this set the stage for forecasts of higher returns on US assets, it was perceived as a signal of confidence that the US economy was on a materially stronger footing than its global counterparts. The realization of this slow move back into normalization, however, has not lived up to the hype.

In contrast to the first hike from the FOMC in December, forecasts for the pace of successive moves has quickly faded. Industrious fundamentalists have recognized the shift and what it means for the Dollar’s lift. However, it is important not to carry the correlation too far. A hawkish deviation carried substantial weight in a world still pursuing further easing measures – and hence the Dollar’s gains. Yet, eating away those premiums doesn’t present that same step-for-step response from the currency. While the fundamental buoyancy is certainly deflating, it doesn’t reverse the standings of a ‘hawkish’ Dollar to a ‘dovish’ Euro, Yuan, Yen, etc.

A currency that has seen its fundamental drive evaporate while the state of its counterparts restrain its subsequent bearish progress is in turn much more difficult to motivate to trend. In the week ahead, big-picture catalysts that could fundamentally upend the Dollar’s unique standings on the competitive monetary policy scale are few. Traditional data is of secondary quality (ISM services, economic surveys, etc) and there are a range of Fed member speeches scheduled. The most headline-worthy item on the list is a scheduled panel discussion with current Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and former heads of the bank Bernanke, Greenspan and Volcker. It is not unlikely we hear remarks on what they each believe is the best path forward – and I wouldn’t expect consensus from this cast.

Perhaps monetary policy can be supplanted by the motivation of sentiment. Volatility measures across financial assets have dropped significantly these past months, but there is concern in broad FX activity measures. The Dollar maintains a dormant safe haven quality that we haven’t seen stimulated in some time – because fear has yet to hit the intensity necessary to override the appeal of the currency’s tepid yield outlook. In current markets, we are not far from a liquidity-bred contagion issue; but fuses with the proper degree of influence have not shown themselves. Perhaps the masses will finally heed the warnings issued by the IMF. This week the group will release its Global Financial Stability Report and World Economic Outlook. Expect to reduced growth forecasts, lament over the efficacy of extreme monetary policy and another China and EM warning. But is it enough to budge complacency?

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