Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) and Real Exchange Rates (RER)

Abstract: In this article, we introduce the Purchasing Power Parity, a theory that stipulates that in the long run, the exchange rate between two countries should even out so that goods essentially cost the same in both countries. The research organizes as follows. In Section 1, we introduce the PPP theory based on the work of Dornbusch (1985), presenting the absolute and relative versions of PPP. In Section 2, we provide three difference analysis and compare the exchanges of Canada, Britain and Japan  (all vs. USD) against their PPP values using Eurostat-OECD data. Section 3 presents the Real Exchange Rate (RER), a rate which seeks to measure the value of a country’s goods relative to the those of another country at the prevailing exchange rate.

LINK ===> PPP and RER


(PPP Value relative to the US Dollar)

Crude Oil (WTI) and the Loonie

We realize that after all these years looking at the market, our approach to currencies and global macro has remained quite simple and cyclical. We usually start our day by looking at the USDJPY (and AUDJPY), USDCNH and CSI 300 index charts that [kind of] describe us the overnight session. If we see huge moves in those charts, we know something important has happened in the ‘Est’ during the night that must be read and understood.

Since the beginning of this commodity meltdown (that analysts named ‘The End of the Super-Cycle’), each [bad] news coming from giant China usually had an impact on commodity prices, bringing down commodity currencies and especially the dollar-bloc ones (CAD, AUD and NZD). In today’s article, we focus on the Canadian Dollar (CAD or Loonie) and how it has reacted to the Oil prices decline over the past year. Since the beginning of 2014, USDCAD (orange line) has appreciated by 33% as the Canadian dollar has been dramatically impacted by the falling prices of oil (WTI, white line) now trading at $32.80 per bbl.

However, as you can see it on the chart below, even though the two underlying assets have been moving ‘together’ [most of the time] over the past year (i.e. lower oil prices implies CAD depreciation versus the US Dollar), the correlation can change over time. For instance, the 5-day correlation between USD and WTI stands now at -90.18%, but have also higher and even positive during small periods of time (mid-January or early December last year).


(Source: Bloomberg)

The reason why we like to watch correlation between assets classes is for the risk management and FX and commodity positioning. We have to admit that since the Fed started to consider shifting towards a tightening monetary policy cycle (i.e. raising interest rates), correlations have been much stronger and being diversified (i.e. not too much exposure to the US Dollar) can be difficult sometimes.

FX ‘picking’, who is the one to watch?

For the past couple of months, volatility has declined in all asset classes and traders (and algos) have switched to a range trading attitude. If we have a quick overview of the market, we can see that the S&P500 is still fighting against the 2,100 level, the VIX is gradually approaching its crucial 12 level, core bond yields are trading a bit higher (Bund is up 10bps, trading at 16bps) and EURUSD is trading in the middle of its 1.05 – 1.10 range.

However, in a more detailed analysis, we heard some noise lately that trigger a bit of movements in the FX market.

1. SNB talks, first round…

The first one was the CHF move. A few days ago, I posted on my twitter account a chart (see tweet @LFXYvan on April 19) that I thought could be problematic for the Swiss economy (i.e. SNB). At that time, EURCHF was gradually approaching the 1.0250 level, down from 1.08 a couple of months ago (5% appreciation).

Then, a couple of days later, SNB comments sent he Swissy tumbling, with EURCHF and USDCHF up 150 and 200 pips respectively. In its comments, the SNB announced that it reduced the group of sight deposit account holders (bank account through which transfers in the form of cashless payments and cash deposits and withdrawals can be effected) that are exempt from negatives rates, therefore transferring the ‘negative carry’ to its clients and in hope that Sight Deposits are reduced.

Looking at the charts, it seems that it wasn’t enough to force investors to run away from the Swiss Franc and I think we are on the path to retest new lows on EURCHF and USDCHF. With Swissy becoming once again the safe-haven asset since the end of the floor in mid-January, SNB Jordan will have to do more to prevent the exchange rate from appreciating ‘too much’.

2. Cable: will the ‘hawkish’ minutes floor the currency losses ahead of the UK general election?

Yesterday’s BoE minutes trigger a bit of appetite for the pound and sent Cable to a 1-month high of 1.5070. As you can see it on the chart below, the currency is now flirting with its 50-day moving average, an important resistance that could halt the pair’s late bullish trend.


(source: FXCM)

To be honest, I didn’t understand the sort of positive GBP reaction based on the central bank’s report. If we look at the big lines, the Committee voted unanimously to keep the Official Bank Rate steady at 0.5% (as expected), and in the 23rd section, it says that policymakers were expecting the 12-month CPI rate to fall into the negative territory at ‘some point in the coming months’. It sounds more neutral (if not so, slightly dovish) than hawkish to me.

With the (uncertain) general election coming ahead, I’d rather keep a short position on Cable, especially at current levels. Conservatives should keep a tight stop at 1.5160 for a first target at 1.4750, however I would widen the room there and suggest a stop at 1.5250 (RR of 1.3).

3. Follow the CAD move

Another mover was the CAD, alongside rising prices for oil, which surged by 6 figures to hit a three-month low of 1.2090 on Friday before coming back to 1.22 (against the greenback). With the Western Canadian Select June futures trading at a 11.50 spread against the WTI and higher than expected inflation rate (1.2% YoY in March vs. 1% consensus), the probability of another 25bp cut from the BoC in order to counter a lower growth economic forecast was revised (lower) by the market. It could potentially cap USDCAD on the upside, first resistance is seen at 1.2280, then the second stands at 1.2400. I would be comfortable with a little short position on USDCAD, targeting 1.2180 at first (stop above 1.2360).


(Source: FXCM)

4. Trade the Yen from a ‘Technicals’ perspective

I will finish this article with the Yen and Japan latest news. We saw earlier this week that Japan Trade Balance saw a tiny JPY3.3bn surplus (vs 409bn deficit expected) after 48 months of trade deficits. Even though it should be considered as good news (for a country which is expected to see a current account deficit for the first time in 34 years), the reason of that tiny surplus was driven by a collapse in imports, that plunged by 14.5% YoY (the most since November 2009). The Good news for Abe (and Kuroda) is that the stock market closed above the 20,000 level this week for the first time in 15 years, making a least one of the arrows – monetary stimulus – work.
As the Yen still remains one of my favorite currencies to watch on a daily basis, I had a lot of conversations with some friends of mine, and we (almost) all agree each time that the BoJ will lose completely control of its currency in the medium/long term. If you look at Japan core figures (debt-to-GDP ratio of 240% according to the IMF, a declining population with more than 25% Japanese aged 65 or over – out of 127ml, massive stimulus as a share of the country’s GDP…), the problem is easily spotted and the biggest ‘opportunity’ will be in the currency market in the medium term.

However, I am more skeptical (i.e. less comfortable) with the short-term trading. Now that the currency has passed its safe-haven status to the Swissy (see tweet @LFXYvan on March 24), I am usually looking for some buy-on-dips opportunities. Being short USDJPY sometimes scares me in the way that I don’t understand how the market interpret good news or bad news in Japan (therefore I always keep a tight stop for short positions).

One thing I am still comfortable in saying that, in an intra-day basis, USDJPY and the equity market (SP500) are still ‘breathing’ together, therefore one of them will ‘carry’ the other.

The wide range on the pair would be 115.50 – 122, but based on today’s volatility I am looking at the 118.30 – 120.80 window. Any breakout of the window could lead to another ‘readjustment’; something I am going to watch closely. If the currency keeps approaching the high of the range, it could be worth going short at 120.60 with a stop above 121.00 and a target at 119.50.


(Source: FXCM)

Quick Overall update…

This week has started with limited risk appetite as situations in Iraq and Ukraine both remain intense. US yields still struggle to take off in the middle of this QE Taper environment (10-year is trading below the 2.60% level), while Gold and Silver both continue to soar and are now trading above 1,300 and 21.00 levels respectively. The US Dollar remains offered against most of the G10 / EM currencies; as you can see it on the chart below, the USD index continues its bearish momentum and is now trading at 80.23 between its lower Bollinger Bands (20, 2.0) and its 200-day MA.


(Source: Reuters)

Dollar Bloc: Low vols sustain demand for Dollar Bloc currencies and especially the Canadian Dollar. Since its high of 1.1278 on March, USDCAD has entered into a bearish momentum as the Loonie continues to benefit from higher than expected CPI figures. As a reminder, annual inflation came in at 2.3% in May (vs 2.0% consensus) and stands now above the BoC 2-percent target. USDCAD broke its 200-day (1.0783) last week and visited its 5-month low at 1.0710 earlier this morning. The next support on the downside stands at the psychological 1.0700, followed by 1.0650 (Jan 7).

Yen: Low US yields in addition to a quite Japanese overnight session add pressure on USDJPY, still trading below 102.00. The pair has been stuck within a 70-pip range for the past couple of weeks, trading above its 200-day MA (101.65) and below its 100-day MA (102.20). The pair’s vols stands at their lowest level; the 1-month ATM volatility decreased to 5.02% (from 10.2% in the beginning of February). USDJPY looks vulnerable and we would carefully watch the downside at the moment; a break of the 200 MA would push the pair back to its strong support at 100.75. On Friday, we will get an update on inflation and household spending figures in Japan; Core Nationwide CPI is expected to increase to 3.4% in May (up from 3.2% the previous month) and could continue to disappoint investors on the easing measures (no signs of urgency from BoJ policymakers).

Euro: We expect the single currency to come back under pressure in the medium term as it seems that the ECB is not done with easing. Final Inflation came in at 0.5% YoY in May a couple f weeks ago and flash EZ Mfg. PMI printed below expectations of 53.5 at 52.8 (French Mfg. PMI was miserable at 47.8). Traders will watch closely updates on Inflation (flash) and ECB figures (Private loans and Money Supply) next week on Monday. EURUSD is trading back above 1.3600; the next resistance zone is seen between 1.3660 (higher Bollinger Band) and 1.3670 (200-day SMA).

Sterling: After Carney’s hawkish comments at the Mansion House that the BoE will consider raising its Official Bank Rate (currently at a historical low of 0.5%) sooner that the market expects (which meant Q1 instead of Q2 previously), today’s testimony before the Treasury Select Committee sounded a bit dovish. BoE Governor said that the ‘exact timing’ if a rate increase will be ‘driven by the data’ and will be ‘limited and gradual’ based on the central bank’s estimation. The 2-year UK-US yield spread shifted lower to 41.1bps this morning (down 4bps), bringing Cable below the 1.7000 level. There has been a large build of long Sterling positions for the past few weeks based on monetary policy divergence (long GBPCHF, GBPJPY or short EURGBP are popular positions to hold at the moment), and the dovish stance of this morning may be another good opportunity to enter (buy on dips / sell on rally) for traders or investors.

Bank of Canada Preview – USDCAD

Even if most of the fundamentals and economic news have been overshadowed by Eastern European tensions, we would like to make a quick preview ahead of the Bank of Canada meeting tomorrow. As we reported in our last update on Canada (here) in mid-January this year, the Canadian dollar has remained under pressure against the greenback in the middle of this QE-Taper scenario. A series of poor fundamentals (widening current account deficit, declining housing market …) combined with low inflation expectations at the last meeting back in January (BoC Governor Stephen Poloz announced he was concerned about ‘low inflation’) and bearish CAD-investors helped us reached our medium term target at 1.1200 (USDCAD) on January 31st.

However, a few ‘surprises’ in the month of February helped the Loonie to recover and for the past couple of weeks, USDCAD has been trading around the 1.1100 level within a tight range of 140 pips (see chart below, 1.1040 – 1.1180). We saw that the economy expanded more that expected in the final three months of last year (2.9% QoQ vs cons. 2.5%) and the inflation rate jumped unexpectedly to 1.5% in January, up from 1.2% the previous month and closer to the BoC 2-percent target.

Therefore, both of the macroeconomic data reduced the likelihood of an interest rate cut for tomorrow’s meeting. We still expect a dovish/neutral tone from Governor Poloz, which could potentially push the Canadian dollar higher against the greenback  in the short term. As we said, the next support on the downside stands at 1.1040; a break could then spur a move back towards 1.0910 (low reached on Feb 17th). In that case, I would then see this support as a new buying opportunity.

(Source: Reuters)