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EUR USD - FUNDAMENTAL DRIVERS

OANDA:EURUSD   Euro / U.S. Dollar
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.

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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