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EUR GBP - FUNDAMENTAL DRIVERS

OANDA:EURGBP   Euro / British Pound
EUR

FUNDAMENTAL BIAS: NEUTRAL

1. Monetary Policy

Hawkish sums up the ECB’s Feb decision. The initial statement was in line with Dec guidance and offered very little surprises (which was initially seen as dovish). However, during the press conference President Lagarde explained that the upside surprises in CPI in Dec and Jan saw unanimous concern around the GC in the nearterm and surprised markets by not repeating Dec language which said a 2022 rate hike was unlikely (which immediately saw STIR markets price in a 10bsp hike as soon as June). The president also made the March meeting live, by stating that they’ll use the March meeting to decide what the APP will look like for the rest of 2022 (which markets took as a signal that the APP could conclude somewhere in 2H22. After the meeting we had the customary sources comments which stated that the ECB is preparing for a potential policy recalibration in March (with some members wanting to change policy at today’s meeting already) and added that it is sensible not to exclude a 2022 hike as a possibility and also stated that the ECB is considering possibly ending the APP at the end of Q3 (which would put a Q4 hike in play). Furthermore, sources stated that if inflation does not ease, they’ll consider adjusting policy in March (which means incoming inflation data will be critical). The shift is stance and tone were significant for us to change the bank’s overall policy stance to neutral and to adjust the EUR’s fundamental bias from dovish to neutral as well. Incoming inflation data will be key from here.

2. Economic & Health Developments

Recent activity data suggests the hit from lockdowns weren’t as bad as feared, the Omicron restrictions weighed on growth. Differentials still favour the US and UK above the EZ. The big focus though is on the incoming inflation data after the ECB’s recent hawkish pivot at their Feb meeting. On the fiscal front, attention is on ongoing discussions to potentially allow purchases of ‘green bonds’ NOT to count against budget deficits. If approved, this can drastically change the fiscal landscape and would be a positive for the EUR and EU equities.

3. Geopolitics

Even though the EUR, through Western sanctions, have dodged potential weakness from the CBR selling the EUR to prop up the RUB, the single currency was not immune for long. It held up okay on Monday and Tuesday, but as proximity risk to the war and economic risk as a result of sanctions grew, the risk premium ballooned, sending EUR risk reversals tanking lower while implied volatility jolted higher. With very big moves lower already, chasing the lows aren’t very attractive, but picking bottoms is equally dangerous.

4. CFTC Analysis

Last week we looked at the big amount of bullish sentiment built up for the EUR over the past 3 months, and we think a lot of those new bulls were caught with their pants down the past week, forcing huge capitulations as the EUR went into free fall across the board. Keep in mind the release date of the COT data means this week’s release won’t show the extent of unwinding until next week, so flying blind is an understatement here.

5. The Week Ahead

The ECB will be the main scheduled risk event for the EUR this week, alongside further unscheduled war news of course. For the ECB, there is not a lot of conviction that the bank will announce a policy recalibration at this week’s meeting. Even though the latest HICP saw yet another bigger-than-expected jolt higher, the geopolitical situation adds a lot of risk. With three separate ECB members (Stournaras, Centeno, Rehn) specifically mentioning stagflation as a growing risk, that shows us that the focus has shifted for some. However, the bank will have a really tough time this week as they will need to juggle between trying to downplay tightening financial conditions in the midst of a potentially big hit to the economy, while also trying to convince markets that they will sort out the current inflation challenge (with ECB’s Lane saying staff economic projections were revised in order to take the Russian invasion into account). On the Russia/Ukraine side, the market priced in a ton of risk premium last week, with EUR risk reversals falling off a cliff and reaching levels last seen during the Covid crash in 2020 and the EU sovereign debt crisis in 2012. With so much bad news priced in the EUR might struggle to continue its move lower without really substantial bad news, but at the same time with the big risk premium any good news could see exacerbated upside.


GBP

FUNDAMENTAL BIAS: NEUTRAL

1. Monetary Policy

Hawkish surprise with a hint of dovish undertones sums up the Feb BoE decision. The bank announced the start of passive QT and hiked rates by 25bsp as expected, but the vote split was unanimous (9-0) but with a big hawkish surprise being 4 MPC members voting for a 50bsp hike. Inflation forecasts saw a big upward revision to a 7.25% peak by April ( prev . 6.0%) & 5.21% in 1-year ( prev . 3.40%). This initial hawkish statement saw immediate strength for GBP but during the press conference the BoE tried their best to get a dovish landing. Gov Bailey started his opening remarks by noting that the MPC’s decision to hike was not because the economy was strong but only because higher rates were necessary to return inflation to target, and even though he opened the door for further hikes he added that markets should not assume rates are on a long march higher. He also acknowledged the stagflation fears recently voiced by some market participants by saying that policy faces a trade-off between weakening growth and higher inflation . Despite the dovish nuances, STIR markets still price an implied cash rate of 1.0% by May which would mean a 25bsp in both March and May (1.0% is the level the BoE previously said they would being outright Gilt selling). Overall, the statement was hawkish, but the clear dovish undertones from the BoE was a bit surprising and also a bit worrisome for the future outlook.

2. Economic & Health Developments

With inflation the main reason for the BoE’s recent rate hikes, there is a concern that the UK economy faces stagflation risk, as price pressures stay sticky while growth decelerates. That also means that current market expectations for rates looks way too aggressive and means downside risks for GBP should growth data push lower, inflation stay sticky, or the BoE continue to push their recent dovish tone.

3. Political Developments

Domestic political uncertainty usually leads to higher risk premiumsfor GBP, so the fate of PM Johnson remains a focus. Fallout from the heavily redacted Sue Gray report was limited but with growing distrust from within his party the question remains whether a vote of no-confidence will happen (if so, that could see short-term downside), and then focus will be on whether the PM can survive an actual vote of no-confidence, where a win should be GBP positive and negative for GBP if he loses. The Northern Ireland protocol is still in focus with the UK threatening to trigger Article 16 and the EU threatening to terminate the Brexit deal if they do. For now, markets have rightly ignored this as posturing, but any actual escalation can see sharp downside for GBP.

4. CFTC Analysis

Even though recent data started to look more constructive for Sterling from a sentiment point of view, the CFTC data remains a mix bag with no clear consensus view, and nothing really stretched by any means. Interestingly, it seems like Leveraged Funds chose the worse time to move GBP into the biggest net long as the currency took a really big knock last week alongside the EUR.

5. The Week Ahead

It’s a very light week on the data front for Sterling with no major data points to watch out for. That means that the biggest focus for the Pound will fall to the ongoing geopolitical uncertainty. Given their proximity to the actual war front, as well as the direct impact of sanctions on their economies, the EUR and GBP saw some very sizeable downside last week. Comparing implied volatility across the G10, the moves higher in the EUR and GBP were worrisome spikes as risk premiums continued to build. This has added another layer of risk on to Sterling, with the BoE’s recent dovish tone already causing some downside risk before the geopolitical risks came into focus. As always, we need to keep price action in mind, and with the amount of downside priced into currencies like the GBP and EUR in such a short space of time, we do want to be mindful of some mean reversion at some stage.

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