OANDA:AUDUSD   Australian Dollar / U.S. Dollar
AUD

FUNDAMENTAL BIAS: WEAK BULLISH

1. Monetary Policy

At their March meeting, the bank didn’t do much to surprise markets and stuck to a similar script compared to the previous meeting, with the exception of adding the Russia/Ukraine war as a major new source of uncertainty. While Unemployment is at 4.2% and expected to be below 4% throughout 2023, and with Inflation above the middle of the target range and expected to rise to 3.25 this year and stay at 2.75% throughout 2023, the continues dovish façade is getting a little embarrassing for the bank. Even though wage growth failed to surprise higher, consensus still expects it to reach 3% in Q2 and well above 3% in Q3, and once the 3% level is reached the RBA would have complete ran out of reasons to stay dovish. It’s clear that markets are looking straight through this though as STIR markets, bond yields and the AUD failed to see any real downside after the meeting and continued higher after a very brief and small dip lower. For now, the bank stays dovish, but the longer they stay in denial the longer the chances of a more aggressive hawkish pivot later.

2. Idiosyncratic Drivers & Intermarket Analysis

Apart from the RBA, there are 4 drivers we’re watching for the med-term outlook: Recovery – unlike other nations where growth & inflation is expected to slow, Australia is expected to see a solid post-covid recovery China – With the PBoC stepping up stimulus & expectations of further fiscal support expected in 1H22, the projected recovery in China bodes well for Australia as China makes up close to 40% of Australian exports. However, the AUKUS defence pact could see retaliation against Aussie goods and is worth keeping on the radar. Commodities – Iron Ore (24% of exports) and Coal (18% of exports) keep grinding higher for various reasons, one being China’s expected recovery and the other the energy and inflation concerns given the geopolitical risks, and as long as these commodities are supported, they should remain supported.

3. Global Risk Outlook

As a high-beta currency, the AUD usually benefits from overall positive risk sentiment as well as environments that benefit pro-cyclical assets. Thus, both short-term (immediate) and med-term (underlying) risk sentiment will always be a key consideration for the AUD.

4. CFTC Analysis

Remember that the updated COT data we received on Friday only included price action until Tuesday of last week, which means the meteoric rip from the latter part of last week is not included in the data. Even though positioning is still very stretched and there is still room to unwind, we would expect quite a sizeable reduction in the current net-shorts with next week’s data as bag holders is no doubt starting to get worried.


USD

FUNDAMENTAL BIAS: BULLISH

1. Monetary Policy

The Jan FOMC decision was hawkish on multiple fronts. The statement signalled a March hike as expected, but Chair Powell portrayed a very hawkish tone. Even though Powell said they can’t predict the rate path with certainty, he stressed the economy is in much better shape compared to the 2015 cycle and that will have implications for the pace of hikes (more and faster). Furthermore, he explained that there is ‘quite a bit of room’ to raise rates without damaging employment, which suggests upside risks to the rate path. A big question going into the meeting was how concerned the Fed was about recent equity market volatility . But the Chair explained that markets and financial conditions are reflecting policy changes in advance and that in aggregate the measures they look at isn’t showing red lights. Thus, any ‘Fed Put’ is much further away and inflation is the Fed’s biggest concern right now. The Chair also didn’t rule out the possibility of a 50bsp hike in March or possibly hiking at every meeting this year, which was hawkish as it means the Fed wants optionality to move more aggressive if they need to. We didn’t get new info on the balance sheet and Powell reiterated that they’re contemplating a start of QT after hiking has begun and they’ll discuss this in coming meetings. Overall, the tone and language were a lot more hawkish than the Dec meeting and more hawkish than consensus was expecting.

2. Global & Domestic Economy

As the reserve currency, the USD’s global usage means it’s usually inversely correlated to the global economy and global trade. Thus, USD usually appreciates when growth & inflation slow (disinflation) and depreciates when growth & inflation accelerates (reflation). With expectations that growth and inflation will decelerate this year that should be a positive input for the USD. However, incoming data will also be important in relation to the ‘Fed Put’. There are many similarities between now and 4Q18, where the Fed were also tightening aggressively going into an economic slowdown. As long as growth data slows and the Fed stays aggressive that is a positive for the USD, but if it causes a dovish Fed pivot and lower rate repricing it would be a negative input for the USD.

3. CFTC Analysis

With peak hawkishness for the Fed arguably close to baked in for the USD, it’s been interesting to view the positioning unfold in the past few weeks. The USD remains a net-long across large specs, leveraged funds and asset managers, but price action has been looking stretched. However, given growing stagflation and geopolitical risks it means stretched positioning might not be as important right now, but worth keeping in mind of course.

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