Waiting on the US deficit Super-Committee
Eurozone headlines have continued to dominate recent market attention, but we think that may soon shift as the so-called U.S. deficit reduction Super-Committee (SC) appears headed for a stalemate. The latest comments from SC panelists suggest the two sides remain far apart on a package of spending cuts and revenue increases, but the SC may still meet over the weekend if no agreement is reached Friday. While we agree that in Washington it’s usually ‘darkest before the deal,’ our base case expectation remains that deadlock will ensue as the Nov. 23 deadline comes and goes.
If no agreement is reached, as we expect, then we would look for credit ratings agencies to voice concern on the outlook for US sovereign ratings, potentially with Fitch joining Moody’s and S&P indicating a negative outlook (S&P cut US ratings following the debt-cap debacle in July). While there are many potential outcomes, including partial deals, two-step processes, etc., we think global financial markets may respond in negative fashion similar to the debt ceiling debate reaction, which saw the S&P 500 collapse by over 18% in late July/early August. It won’t be based on the fiscal issues involved, but rather on the lack of political cooperation inhibiting any long-term stabilization in US deficits or debt levels. Additionally, mandatory across-the-spending cuts triggered by a deadlock, while not set to take effect until FY 2013, will further weigh on the outlook for the US and global recoveries. We would expect back-up plans galore to be floated in the aftermath of a SC deadlock, likely meaning a new legislative drama begins on the other side of the Atlantic into the end of the year.
Absent a deal, we think risk sentiment is ripe for a further plunge, with the USD potentially seeing strong safe haven demand despite potential ratings’ concerns. Most likely, though, in our view, CHF and JPY will be the bigger winners if risk comes off sharply. Alternatively, should a last minute package be reached, risk sentiment is likely to improve sharply given the low expectations for a result.
ECB digs in against sovereign bailouts
Even as the market chorus calling for an ECB back-stop for sovereign borrowers grows louder, the ECB appears to be digging in against using its balance sheet to stem the contagion. The euro stabilized somewhat at the end of the week on reports that the ECB might consider lending to the IMF, which would in turn provide funding to endangered Eurozone governments. But comments from ECB Pres. Draghi on Friday, in which he declared that the ECB would stay focused on its inflation mandate and called on politicians to find a solution, suggest the ECB/IMF initiative will not materialize. Germany remains adamant in its opposition to allowing the ECB to provide unlimited lending, and until there is some further crisis in credit markets, we don’t see Berlin relenting.
Meanwhile, the Eurozone economic outlook continues to deteriorate, intensifying the negative feedback loop where weak growth aggravates debt burdens, which raises credit costs, adding further to debt burdens, and on and on. Spanish elections on Sunday are expected to see the conservative opposition People’s Party win a landslide victory on a platform of additional austerity measures. While the market reaction to the elections may be briefly positive for EUR and Spanish debt, we think it will be extremely short-lived as the reality sets in that further austerity will do nothing to alleviate the negative debt dynamics in Spain and elsewhere, bringing markets back to the view of toxic Eurozone government debt. We would also note that the British press on Friday revealed a leaked report from the German foreign ministry which indicated policymakers should prepare for additional orderly defaults beyond Greece, likely meaning Italy, Spain and others. We don’t think this bodes well for Eurozone credit markets in the near-term, but we’ll also be looking to see exactly how much Italian/Spanish debt the ECB bought in this past week. If they stepped up purchases to significantly more than the sub-EUR10 bio of recent weeks, it may provide some further stabilization. Lastly, we would look for the ECB debate to come to a head around the next EU summit on Dec. 9.
Risk assets still vulnerable
Continuing on from the sections above, we’ll begin by looking at EUR/USD, where price this past week has closed just below the daily Ichimoku cloud bottom at 1.3531, but importantly has held above the weekly cloud base at 1.3408, which coincides with the 76.4% retracement of the recent 1.3150-1.4250 advance. If the 1.3405/10 level fails on a daily closing basis, we would look for additional declines to the 1.3150 prior lows initially. While that support hold, there is scope for some further consolidation/correction, but we think the 1.3750/3800 area offers a good short-entry opportunity.
Consistent with the weak outlook for EUR, the S&P 500 has broken down out of a sideways triangle consolidation at about 1235, and may in fact be leading FX. The daily Tenkan line is poised to cross down below the Kijun line, generating only a weak sell signal at the moment, as price remains above the 1168 daily cloud top. The weekly Kijun line comes in at 1215, coincident with the Nov. 1 low, suggesting to us that a drop below the 1210/15 level may trigger a sharper decline in the weeks ahead.
The CRB commodity index has also fallen below trendline support for the advance since early Oct., last at 312.20, but has held above the daily cloud base at 310.00 for the time being. The daily Tenkan and Kijun lines should see a bearish crossover shortly, and with price inside the cloud/possibly below, a medium-to-strong sell signal may be generated. We would also note the sharp rejection of WTI crude oil prices from above $100/bbl and a similar failure in gold from the 1800 area. Gold prices have dropped back into the daily cloud and a close below the 1703 Kijun line may signal a test of the 1676 cloud base initially.
Overall, we continue to favor using rebounds in risk assets as an opportunity to get short risk. In FX, we will focus on opportunities to short risk currencies like EUR, AUD, CAD, and NZD on remaining strength against safer haven FX like the USD, CHF, and JPY, though we must caution on intervention risks in those last two currencies.
Finally, we would note the US Thanksgiving holiday next Thursday, which also typically sees reduced market interest on Friday as well. While a holiday shortened week heading into the final weeks of the year may see further market consolidation/sideways drift, we will be alert for potential risk asset breakdowns amid lethargic markets.
Brian Dolan is chief currency strategist at www.FOREX.com.
Disclaimer: The information and opinions in this report are for general information use only and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any currency. All opinions and information contained in this report are subject to change without notice. This report has been prepared without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any particular recipient. While the information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, author does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness, nor does author assume any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions.