Japan update: Abenomics 2.0

As a sort of casual week end ‘routine’, I was watching the cross assets chart of the main economies that I usually follow. There are so many things that are happening at the moment, however a little update on Japan is always refreshing and useful.

The chart below shows the evolution of the equity market (Nikkei 225 index, Candles) overlaid with USDJPY (green line). As you can see, since Abe came into power in December 2012, there has been a sort of Pavlovian response to the massive monetary stimulus: currency depreciation has led to higher equities. However, the Nikkei 225 index closed at 17,725 on Friday and is down almost 15% from a high of 21,000 reached on August 11, whereas the currency has stabilized at around 120 and has been trading sideways over the past month with an 1-month ATM implied volatility down from 13.2 to 10.6% over the same period. If we look at the 20-day correlation (that I like to watch quite a bit) between the two asset classes, we are down from a high of 89% reached on August 24th to 38.1% in the last observation with an equity market being much more volatile.

EquityandYenC

(Source: Bloomberg)

In article I wrote back in September 2014 entitled The JPY and some overnight developments, I commented a bit on how Japanese Pension Funds (GPIF in my example) were decreasing their bonds allocation and switching to equities. And the questions I ask myself all the time is ‘Can the BoJ (and the other major CBs) lose against the equity market today?’ Indeed, the GPIF, which manages about $1.15 in assets, suffered a 9.4tr Yen loss between July and September according to Nomura Securities.

Abenomics 1.0 update…

We saw lately that Japan printed a negative GDP of 0.3% QoQ in the second quarter of 2015 and is potentially heading for a Quintuple-Dip recession in 7 years. In addition, the economy returned to deflation (for the first time since 2013) if we look at the CPI Nationwide Ex Fresh Food (-0.1% YoY in August, down from 3.4% in May 2014). We know that deflation and recession were both factors that Abe has been trying to fight and avoid, and the question is now ‘What is the next move?’

In a press conference on September 24th, PM Abe announced a sort-of new ‘arrow’ where the plan is to achieve a GDP target of 600 trillion Yen in the coming years (no specific time horizon mentioned as far as I know), which is 20% more from where the economy stands at the moment (JPY 500tr). In addition, he also target to increase the birth rate to 1.8 children per woman from the current low rate of 1.4 in order to make sure that the Japanese population don’t fall below 100 million in 50 years (from approximately 126 million today).

Clearly, this new announcement shows that the three-arrow plan has failed for the moment, and the BoJ only has been the major player in order to inflate prices over the past few years. I am wondering how this new plan is going to work in the middle of the recent EM economic turmoil. My view goes for additional stimulus, another 10 trillion Yen on the table which will bring the QQME program to a total of 90 trillion Yen. If you think about it, the BoJ is currently running a QE program almost as much as big as the Fed’s one in 2013 (85bn USD a month, 1 trillion USD per year) for an economy three times smaller than the US. Deceptions coming from Kuroda (i.e. no additional printing) could strengthen the Yen a little bit, but this will be seen as a new buying opportunities for traders or investors looking at the 135 medium-term retracement (against the US Dollar).

Here are a few figures and ratios to keep in my mind in the medium-term future…

Bank of Japan Total Assets

According to Bloomberg’s BJACTOTL Index, the BoJ’s balance sheet total assets increased by 210tr Yen since December 2012 and now stands at 368tr Yen. With an economy estimated at roughly 500tr Yen, the BoJ-total-assets-to-GDP ratio stands now at 73.6%.

JAPANassetC

(Source: Bloomberg)

Japan Banks total Assets

As of Q1 2015, the Japanese Banks reported a 1,818 trillion Yen exposure, which represents 363% as a share of the country’s GDP.

BanksJapanC

(Source: Bloomberg)

Based on the figures, you clearly understand that Japan’s government has been trying to push savers into stocks so Mrs Watanabe can take part of this artificial asset price inflation. However, a recent study from the Bank of Japan showed that Japanese households still had 52% of their assets in cash and bank deposits as of March 2015 (vs 13% for the American for instance).

The 15-percent recent drawdown in the equity market clearly shows sign of persistent ‘macro tourists’ investors, who are giving Abe and the BoJ board a hard time.

To conclude, the situation is still complicated in Japan, which is hard to believe based on the figures I just showed you. I strongly believe that Abe cannot fail in his plan, therefore if the new arrow needs more stimulus (which it does), we could see another 10 to 15 trillion on the table in the coming months. The medium term key level on USDJPY stands at 135, which brings us back to the high of March 2002.

Reviewing Market Carnage 2.0

Back in the middle of October last year, I wrote an article to summarize and explain the Market Carnage. It was never published on my blog, therefore I added it in the Appendix section. This morning, it seems that we experienced another ‘Black Monday’, triggered by some disappointing news coming from China. The PBoC surprised the market with no RRR cut (while a 50-100 bps cut was ‘expected’ by the participants), and then followed a market collapse with the Shanghai composite down as much as 9% at one point (the most since 1996). US Equities were down as well, trading below 1,900 as you can see it on the chart below, while USD/CHF (blue line) is down 5 figures in one week flirting with the 0.9300 level when I was writing the article.

USDCHF

(Source: FXCM)

I personally believe that you can learn a lot from a trading session like today, that tells you that the market can go anywhere. While the sell-side research was telling me that EURUSD has nowhere to go but down and that US 10Y rate will never go back below the 2% level and that it could be interesting to start buying oil at $40, last week’s session and today in particular prove you that you can have it all wrong. One thing that I am ‘happy’ to see is that the Swissie has really acted as a safe haven currency, something that I understood after the SNB removed the EURUSD floor on January 15th (and consider it as a historical event).

Volatility was considered so high that the NYSE invoked ruled 48 to avoid a panic selling at the US Opening. The rule, approved by the SEC on December 6 2007, says that market makers ‘will not have to disseminate price indications before the bell, making it easier and faster to open stocks’.

Insane moves were seen on the currency market, to begin with NZDJPY that totally collapsed from 81.50 to 72.50 earlier today (that’s a 11-percent move in a single day!). USDJPY registered a 6-figure move down to 116 (mid-January lows), and EURUSD went North breaking the 1.17 level and gaining 300 pips in hours with a huge lack of liquidity (See Chart 1).

Reaction is expected now from China in order to calm down investors, and hopefully bring the situation back to normal. I am sort of convinced that the situation will stabilize within the next couple of days, however those market flash crashes kinda worry me about the global macro situation in most of the countries. As I mentioned it in some of my previous articles, I am persuaded that the Fed is not comfortable with those types of trading sessions. Coming now to the September hike, it is much less obvious that US policymakers will start a tightening policy based on the market’s attitude on trading days like today.

The question now is: ‘What sort of tools has China got in its advantage to calm this ‘panic’ (and the BoJ and SNB) in the coming week?’ I am currently working on a article about China’s economic and financial situation and its relation to the commodity market that I will try to publish soon.

In my current FX positioning, I am long USDCHF at 0.93 and short EURUSD at 1.1665 as a believe we will see a calmer afternoon.

Chart 1 (EURUSD)

EURUSD

(Source: FXCM)

Appendix: 

For the past few years that I have been trading, I believe Wednesday was by far the most volatile and swingy session of all. It first started very quietly in the UK morning session, and then it really went out of control before the US opened. I don’t even know where to begin…

Equities continue their correction: Eurostoxx 50 index is down more than 12% (French and German market are off 12.5% and 13.5% respectively), the Footsie and the S&P 500 both down by 9.5% since the highs reached on September 19th.

If we have a look at the chart below, we can see that the VIX, which measures the 30-day volatility implied by the ATM S&P500 options prices, surged and breached the 30 level and is now trading back to November 2011 levels, taking the equity (S&P) down with him. There is clearly more room for further correction, no buy-the-dip scenario this time unfortunately.

SPVIX(Source: Reuters)

One currency that continues to strengthen in reaction to the risk-off sentiment (a real one this time) is the Japanese Yen. After the nice August/September momentum, USDJPY, which reached its peak of 110.08 on October 1st, was sold to 105.21 in the early afternoon before recovering back to 106.00. Our favourite [carry trade] pair keeps tumbling and is now trading at a 7-month low slightly below the 93.00 level. As I usually say ‘it is all about the Yen’, you better watch carefully where the currency is going at the moment [more strength!] as it will give you an idea of the overall market.

Another big ‘surprise’ was of course the 10-year US yield (blue line) that tumbled below the 2% level down to 1.86% approximately (May 2013 levels), before ‘recovering’ to 2.1%. I always ask myself ‘where does the market like to see the 10-year yield?’ Obviously not too high, but below 2% clearly means that the market participants are not confident [at all]. On the other hand, Gold (yellow bars) continued its rally, up to 1,250 before edging lower to 1,240. The 10-minute-period chart below (USDJPY in red bars) shows you that asset classes moves clearly ‘together’ under a ‘stressed market’.

GOldYenYields(Source: Reuters)

End of POMO, what to expect from the next FOMC meeting (October 28th)?

While we are ‘kindly’ approaching the last days of QE with the Fed stepping out of the bonds market at the end of this month (October 28th, see chart in appendix), I think we may have a couple of dovish FOMC meetings concerning the central bank’s ST monetary policy. To me, it looks like the US policymakers have made a ‘mistake’ by expressing themselves on that point [rate hike] as they should have let the market swallow a period without QE. True, Fed officials are willing to start tightening. For instance, we heard San Fran Williams (one of the most dovish and apparently seen as a good ‘barometer of the views of Yellen’) saying that he would hope the Fed can tighten, mentioning 9 months to see the first hike. However, it looks to me that the higher rates world is just an illusion…

In order to avoid the ON/OFF calls that we have seen since the beginning of the year (RBNZ, BoE and now the Fed), there need to be a sort of global monetary policy coordination. Otherwise, we are going to see other sharp fluctuations and especially in the FX market (remember, nobody wants a high exchange rate, not even the US, aka the Fed).

On the top of that, oil is plunging; coincidence? WTI November 2014 futures contract is now down more than 20pts since June trading slightly above 80 (as Zero Hedge mentions: ‘if Oil plunge continues, now may be a time to panic for US shale companies’). As I believe that Oil prices and the equity market are the Fed’s two most important components, I don’t only see cheap oil prices only as a benefit (stimulus) for consumers, therefore adding pressure on Yellen’s [and Co.] team.

My view goes for a Dollar pause, and I will carefully wait for the October (28th) FOMC meeting to see how US policymakers are going to deal with the current situation. An important figure to watch will be the Inflation report next Wednesday. US CPI is expected to remain steady at 1.7% YoY in September, however I think we could see some disappointment…

Appendix:
Unknown(Source: NY Fed)

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.

GBP

(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).

CAD

(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.

JPY

(Source: FXCM)

Post FOMC Analysis, Dollar Flash Crashes…

This week has been full of macro events (four central banks meetings – BoJ, Norges Bank, SNB and the Fed), however all eyes were on the FOMC statement that came up yesterday. Dovish stance from Yellen in addition to 2015 forecasts revised on the downside created Dollar ‘Flash Crashes’, with the FX market completely out of control. The US Dollar index was trading around 100 yesterday morning, then went down from 99.50 to 98.00 after the FOMC, and eventually ‘flash-crashed’ after the US close. EURUSD (and Cable) soared by 400 pips (and 500 pips) to 1.1040 (and 1.5160 respectively), USDCHF down 4 figures as well down to 0.9620. The yen was less reactive (which clearly shows the declining Yen Pavlovian response the risk-off environment, USDJPY went down ‘only’ 200 pips to 119.30.

To review the FOMC statement briefly, the Committee revised down all 2015 forecasts since the previous Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) released on December 17 last year. The median dot plot for year end 2015 decreased from 1.125% to 0.625% (down by 50 pips). In addition, looking at the Fed’s dot plot for the year 2016 and 2017, we can see that the median dot for 2016 fell to 1.875% in March (vs. 2.5%) and decline to 3.125% from 3.625% for 2017.

FOMC DOT plot

 (Source: Fed’s website)

Furthermore, if we look at the table below which shows the advance release of the SEP, we can see that the central tendency for GDP this year was decreased to 2.3%-2.7% (from 2.3% – 2.7%), PCE inflation (the inflation measure watched by the Fed as the PCE index covers a wide range of household spending) went down to 0.6% – 0.8%, compared to 1.0% – 1.6% three months ago.

FED Forecasts

(Source: Federal Reserve’s website)

While the Dollar has been recovering all day (especially during Asia, USD index now trades back at 99.40, with EURUSD back down to 1.0660, USDCHF up to 0.9910, Cable down to 1.4740 and USDJPY at 120.80), the market is still a bit ‘stress’ with all core bond yields trading to lower levels (See appendix, Bund at 19bps, US 10Y at 1.95% or UK Gilt at 1.52%) and peripheral EZ bonds trading higher than yesterday’s levels.

As a result, the equity market (S&P500) is back on track after a quick 70-point bear consolidation as I was looking for (see tweet @LFXYvan on Feb 26). If we look at the chart below, we can see that the 100 SMA has acted as a sort of support where the market found some potential buyers-on-dips. Over the past few months, it looks like if the 100 SMA didn’t hold, the 200 SMA was doing the rest of the job (except in mid-October).

SP500

(Source: FXCM)

Even though the equity has lost a bit of ‘power’ since the Fed stepped out of the bond market at the end of October last year (the bear consolidation are becoming more and more recurrent), I still believe there is some potential room on the upside based on yesterday’s comments and readjustments.

I am curious to know how the US policymakers will play the rate hike within the next few months (will there be one in June?), as even if the job market has continued to show some strong figures with a NFP report at 295K in February and an unemployment rate at 5.5% (close to full employment according to economists), there has been a lots a disappointing macro figures. See list below with all the misses in just the past month…

Misses US

 (Source: ZeroHedge)

Earlier today, the SNB left its deposit rate negative at -0.75% and jawboned a bit about the recent CHF appreciation. EURCHF is trading at 1.0550, down 2.5 figures in the past month and potentially ‘hurting’ the Swiss economy (Swiss is also part of the ‘Currency War’ party). Norway unexpectedly left its interest rates unchanged and signalled in its report that another cut was planned to protect the Norwegian economy from the plunge in oil prices. The NOK rocketed against the greenback earlier today, down from 8.37 to 8.07 on this hawkish surprise. As a reminder, Oil (and gas) generate more than 20% of Norway’s output, and the country may be in difficulty if this low-oil-price era persists. Norway may have to ‘tap’ into their sovereign wealth funds – Government Pension Fund Global – (approx. $850bn) in order to support their annual budgets this year. However, the maximum that the government could spend from oil revenue is 4% of the fund (by law).

Otherwise, no surprise from Japan and the BoJ stood firm on Tuesday, leaving its monetary policy unchanged (80tr Yen of asset purchases annually, mostly JGBs), even though policymakers acknowledged that prices might start falling in the coming months. Consumer prices in Japan rose 2.4% YoY in January, the same as the previous two months and down from 3.7% in April last year.

 Appendix: Bonds yields…

BBG

 (Source: Bloomberg)

A CB surprise…

After October 15th last year, yesterday was another insane day in the market. We know approximately the impact of a lower (or higher) NFP report on the US dollar or a lower (resp. higher) than expected EZ inflation rate on Euro bonds; however when the surprise comes from a central bank, we saw the consequences…
But first, I am going to have just one quick digression before going for it, concerning the OMT.

OMT is legal

Almost a year ago, the German Federal Constitutional Court (GFCC) found ECB’s OMT bond-buying program illegal and incompatible with EU and German law. Given that the GFCC only has jurisdiction on matters of German domestic law, it decided to leave judgement to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In his Opinion on Wednesday, the Advocate General Cruz Villalon observed that the program is compatible with the EU Law and that the ‘objectives are in principle legitimate and on consonant with monetary policy’. He added that the program is ‘necessary as well as proportionate in the strict sense, since the ECB does not assume a risk that will necessarily make it vulnerable to insolvency’. As a reminder, the Advocate General’s Opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice. THe judges are now deliberating and the Opinion is expected to reach its judgment by May.

The Euro plummeted by 100 pips to 1.1730 (9-year low) after the news, but came back above 1.1840 on the back of poor US retail sales figures. As a reminder, retail sales dropped 0.9% MoM on Wednesday, the most since June 2012, and missed expectations of a 0.1% decline.

However, the ‘recovery’ didn’t last very long as the single currency is currently trading at 1.1630 against the greenback. How come?

Definitely unexpected…

Yesterday morning, slightly before lunch time (Swiss local time), the Swiss National Bank announced that it was discounting the minimum exchange rate of 1.20 per Euro (that it has been ‘defending’ for the past 3-1/2 years). It also announced that it would go further into NIRP policy, pushing its interest rate on deposit balances to even more negative from -0.25% to -0.75%.

By letting the exchange rate float ‘naturally’, the consequence were brutal and EURCHF, which had been flirting with the 1.20 over the past couple of months, crashed to (less than) 75 cents per Euro, wiping out every single long EURCHF position, before ‘recovering’ to parity (now trading at 1.0140).

EURCHF

USDCHF is now trading around 0.8700 (back from above parity levels, 1.02 to be precise), and EURUSD was sold to 1.1568 before rebounding.

A Stressed Market

The Swiss curve is now trading in the negative territory for all the maturities until 10 years; the swiss market index tumbled to (less than) 8000 (almost 15 drawdown) and then stabilized around 8,400.

US yields are still compressing, with the 5-year, 10-year and 30-year trading at 1.18%, 1.72% and 2.37% respectively. I added a table below that shows the 10-year overall and definitely summaries the current ‘environment’. As you can see, Greece is the only EZ country where yields are trading at astronomic levels on the fear of a Grexit scenario in 10 days (See article here). I like the expression ‘the Japanization of Global Bond yields’ used by some analysts I read.

Capture d’écran 2015-01-16 à 10.35.47

(Source:Bloomberg)

Our favorites, AUDJPY and USDJPY, both reacted to the SNB comments ‘bringing down’ the equity market with them. AUDJPY plunged from (almost) 97 to 95.30 and is now trading at 95.60. USDJPY broke below 116.60 and dropped to 116.28; before that, it reached a daily high of 117.92 during the ‘early’ Asian hours.

The S&P500 index followed the general move and broke the 2,000 level (closing at 1,992), and is now trying to find a new low. Is it going to be a buy-on-dips scenario once again? Clearly, the equity market is ‘swingy’, however I don’t think we are about to enter a bearish momentum yet and I still see some potential on the upside. Therefore, USDJPY should also help the equity market levitate and we should see the pair back to 120.

Discrete poor US fundamentals

Yesterday was also marked by a poor jobless claims report in the US, which was totally forgotten of course but surged to 316K (vs. expectations of 290K). In addition, the Philly Fed, an index measuring changes in business growth, crashed from a 21-year high of 40.2 in November to 6.3 in January (missing expectations of 18.7), the lowest since 2014. I know these figures are quite not relevant for traders and investors, however I do think it is worth noticing it. As a reminder, US inflation rate (watched carefully by US policymakers) decreased from 1.7% to 1.3% in November and is expected to remain at low levels (between 1 and 1.5 percent).

Overall, the global economy still looks weak, and we saw lately that the World Bank decreased this year’s growth projections to 3% in 2015 (down from 3.4% last June). Major BBs declined their forecasts on oil and expect prices to remain low in the first half of this year. We heard Goldman’s Jeff Currie lately saying that prices of crude oil may fall below the bank’s 6-month forecast of $39 a barrel. Remember the chart I like to watch (oil vs. inflation vs. yields vs. equities).

The next couple of event to watch are of course the ECB meeting on January 22nd, followed by the Greek national elections on January 25 (see below). For the ECB meeting, it is hard to believe that the central bank will do nothing after the SNB’s announcement.

EZrecaps

(Source: MS Research)

Japan and the Yen, where do we stand now?

On October 31st, Governor Kuroda announced that the BoJ will raise (by a 5-4 majority vote) its bond-buying program. We saw the reaction since then; USDJPY soared from 112+ then to 120 (with a high of 121.86 on December 7). Some analysts think that the move was/is exaggerated, but if you put the figures on table, it looks reasonable to me. By announcing that the Bank of Japan will buy between 8 and 12 trillion JPY of JGBs each month, it means that it will purchase the total 10tr Yen of new bonds issued by the Ministry of Finance; in other words, full monetization. As a reminder, the central bank is the largest single holder of JGBs (with 20%+ of the shares), and could end up owing half of the JP bond market within the next 3 to 4 years.

With the country now in a triple-dip recession (GDP contracted by 1.9% in the third quarter) and the inflation rate slowing down for the fourth consecutive month in November (core CPI, which excludes volatile fresh food but include oil products, rose 2.7% in November, down from 2.9% in September and 3% in October), I see just more ‘power’ coming from Japanese policymakers. Elected in December 2012 as Japan PM (the seventh one in the last decade), I am convinced that Abe (and Kuroda/Aso) cannot fail this time and will (and must) continue to go ‘all-in- on his plan. That will mean aggressive easing, therefore constant depreciation of the currency JPY in the MT/LT. Remember the graph I like to watch: Central Bank’s total assets as a percent of the country’s GDP (see article It is all about CBs).

In fact, as many analysts have stated, the hit from the sales tax increase back in April turned out to be bigger than expected. The second one, which was set for October 2015 and would have seen a 2-percent rise to 10 percent, has already been postponed for early 2017 according to Abe’s announcement last month. When will the country work on its budget balance? As a reminder, Japan has been showing a 8%+ budget deficit over the past six years, which rose the level of its debt to a ‘unsustainable’ 230% as a share of GDP.

Another major problem that the third-largest economy will have to deal with in the long term is its population. The chart below (Source: the Economist) shows the evolution of Japan’s population from 1950 to 2055 (forecast). It is aging, and that is terrible news for all the pension or mutual funds as many people from the Japanese workforce will switch from being net savers to net spenders.

20141213_gdc700(Source: the Economist)

With a population of 127 million in 2013, the number of people is expected to fall below 100 million by the middle of this century due to the low birth of rate (total fertility rate of 1.4 in 2013).

In my article last month on the Japanese Yen History, I added a quick ‘technical’ chart and stated that we may see some take profit a 120 and that the pair should stabilize at around that level based on the downtrend line. And each time I have some discussion about the Yen, I always say there are two ways to play it:
– either keep it short (against USD or GBP) for those who are looking for a medium or long term view;
– or buy the pair (USDJPY) on dips if you try to catch nice trends. Don’t try to short it, unless you are really confident and have been doing it for a while. All traders I know are looking for buying opportunities on the pair.

Speaking of that, it looks to me that the core portfolio I have been carrying over the past few months now – Short EUR (1/2) , JPY (1/2) vs. long USD (2/3) and GBP (1/3) – has been quite profitable, and I still believe there is more room. At least, it makes sense on the idea I had about ‘monetary policy divergence’, with the US and UK considering raising rates (no printing/QE) while EZ and Japan aggressively printing with NIRP/ZIRP monetary policies. I will try to write a piece shortly on the Euro while I am working on my 2015 outlook.

Don’t fall in love with your US Dollar positions…

As you know, the Fed stepped back from the market by announcing the end of the QE3 era last Wednesday. However, another major central bank, the BoJ, took over by increasing [eventually] the amount of its current bond-buying program by 10tr Yen to 80tr Yen (and tripled its purchases of ETFs to 3tr Yen). You saw the consequences since then, with USDJPY that tested a new 7-year high at 114.00, up almost 5 figures in two business days. The Nikkei closed above the 16,400 level on Friday (16,413.76), but didn’t participate to the overnight development as Japanese market were closed due to Culture ‘holiday’ Day.

To sum up, the Fed is done with QE [for the moment], however we have two other big players – ECB and BoJ – which are trying to do whatever it takes to keep pushing asset prices higher. As a reminder, the ECB plans to increase its total balance sheet by 1tr+ EUR within the next couple of years to come (now is it possible? That’s a different story. See article ECB dilemma: Whatever it can…).

It looks to me that the chart to watch now is the total big-4-central-bank balance sheet. As you can see it on the chart below, 10.5tr USD were injected into the market since the GFC; and from what we hear and read, we are far from done…

CBs

(Source: Barclays)

One thing that makes me uncomfortable at the moment is the sharp appreciation of the US Dollar against all the currencies. We believe even though US policymakers are conscious the USD will strengthen in the long term, however we think that they are looking for a slow and gradual increase.

In its last minutes, the Fed expressed its concerns about the rising dollar (too fast indeed is what they meant) and its negative effect on inflation and US exporters. The market has to accept that, otherwise the topic will come back on the table each time (minutes, meeting, semi-annual testimony…).

Quick update on the Euro

The single currency broke its strong support at 1.2500 against the greenback (which represents the 76.4% retracement of the 1.2040 – 1.3991 interval) and the pair is now trading at a 2-year [and 2-month] low, down 11% over the past six months. There are rumours (ECB Source) that the Fed launched currency war telling the ECB not to push it too fat (concerning its exchange rate). It tells you that the next and final retracement traders will look at is the 1.2040 low reached on July 20 2012.

EUr03Nov

(Source: Reuters)

FX positioning

We are still comfortable on being short EURGBP, targeting the 0.7750 retracement (entry level 0.8000, stop loss decreased to 0.8000). Watch the ECB and BoE meetings this Thursday.

We would like to add another position on today’s update: short AUDNZD at current levels (1.1270), with a target at 1.1140 at first and a stop loss above 1.1360. We know that the late inflation figures in NZ (which came in lower than expected at 1% YoY vs 1.3% consensus) will weigh on RBNZ officials to consider getting back in the tightening cycle, but we are comfortable with short the pair at the high of the range as you can see it on the chart.

AUDNZD03Nov(Source: Reuters)

Japan, the Yen and the Aussie

Three days ago, we saw that Japanese GDP contraction in the second quarter was revised to an annualized 7.1% QoQ (vs. 6.8% previously), shrinking at its fastest pace in more than five years, due to a deeper decline in consumer spending and a bigger fall in capital expenditure (money used to purchase, upgrade, improve or extend the life of LT assets). In addition, the Ministry of Finance reported that the country showed market a current account surplus of 416.7bn Yen in July (slightly less that 444bn expected and 30% down compare to July last year) as the income from foreign investments (up 2.8% to 1.853tr Yen) outweighed the trade deficit (964bn deficit Yen in July, August one to be released on Sep 17th).

While the unemployment has fallen quite sharply since Abe’s election (4.5% in Dec 2012) to 3.8% in August, real wages have constantly been declining over the past few years (they fell by 3.8% YoY in May, the sharpest decline in years). One explanation of the fall in real wages we read lately (The Economist, Feeling the pinch) was that Japan’s labour market is divided between two sorts of employees, regular ones who are usually highly paid and protected [against being fired] and the non-regular [low-paid] ones. If you have a look at the figures, non-regular workers accounted for 36.8% of all jobs in June, a high number compare to historical standards and therefore confirming that most jobs created since Abe took office were non-regular workers.

This definitely explains weakening figures in household spending. We saw that July Household Spending fell 5.9% YoY, twice what economists expected, printing in the negative territory for the fourth time in a row. As a reminder, Japan is a consumer-driven economy (61% as a percentage of GDP in 2012 according to the World Bank); therefore the BoJ will watch closely those figures in order to avoid another dismal quarter.

However, according to the Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Kikuo Iwata, the economy is ‘gradually recovering’ and it is all about the sales tax increase effect. Moreover, with the BoJ now monetizing debt at negative rates (T-Bill 12/08/2014 has been trading in the negative territory for the past few days as you can see it in the chart below), Iwata added that he didn’t see ‘any difficulties in money market operations’.

sg2014091052862(1)

(Source: Bloomberg)

Quick review on USD/JPY

The recent surge in the stock market (Nikkei up 1,000 pts over the past month, closing at 15,788.78 earlier this morning) mainly coming from ‘more QE coming soon’ speculation combined with demand for international securities (Bonds, Stock) from Japanese funds have both played in favour of the depreciation of the Yen lately since it broke out of its 101 – 103 range on August 20. In addition, with US yields starting to ‘surge’ (10-year yield up 20bps over the past two weeks and now trading at 2.53%), USDJPY was sent up to 106.85 during today’s trading session, breaking its resistance of 105.44 (Jan 2nd high) and trading to levels seen back in September 2008. If the depreciation continues, the next MT target on the pair stands at 110.

Aussie updates…

AUDJPY (black bar) eased a bit from last week’s [16-month] high of 98.65, down more than a 100 pips (carry trade unwinds combined with AUD selling from corporate and macro names), taking the equity market (red line) with ‘him’ (S&P closed below the 2,000 level at 1,988).

AUDJPY-10-Sep(1)

(Source: Reuters)

The AU benchmark (S&P/ASX) index came back to a 3-1/2 week low after Westpac’s index of consumer sentiment reported a 4.6% decline in September, bringing the Aussie below the 0.9200 support against the greenback.

AUDUSD is also trading below its 200-day MA (0.9180) for the first time in five months. Market has turned bearish on the pair as the failure to hold the 0.9180 – 0.9200 support area has opened up further retracements levels: 0.9075 (61.8% Fibo retracement of 0.8658 – 0.9756), followed by 0.9030. Australia will report employment figures overnight (2.30 am), which traders expect to be disappointing, therefore sending the Aussie to lower levels.

AUD-10-Sep(1)

(Source: Reuters)

The JPY and some overnight developments…

The latest development that we found interesting lately was certainly USDJPY breaking out of its [four-month] 101 – 103 range on August 20. Despite US LT yields trending lower (10-year trading below 2.40%) and the BoJ showing no interest of increasing QE even though the economy printed dismal figures (except a strong CPI), the Yen has weakened by almost two figures in the past couple of weeks against the greenback and is now trading slightly below 105.

We were a bit surprised by this breakout as we thought until lately that the JPY had no reason to depreciate against the US Dollar (especially with a quiet BoJ and US LT yields expected to remain low in H2 according to analysts). Our thoughts was that the Yen depreciation mainly came from the carry trade positions (‘risk-on’ sentiment) with AUDJPY trading at new highs at around 97.50 (which corresponds to June 2013 levels), and we first assumed that the risk-on situation isn’t fully established and the market was just looking for ST opportunities and that any major ‘bad’ news could potentially trigger some massive carry unwinds as we saw previously (aka Yen appreciation).

However, after a few chats with some FX strategists (who we all thank for their kind answers), a first important thing to notice is the decrease in the 6-month (daily) rolling correlation between AUDJPY and S&P500 from 67% back in mid-February this year down to 47% today. In other words, the Japanese Yen sensitivity to risk-off moves has fallen as you can see it below in the Bloomberg Spread Analysis.Audcorr

(Source: Bloomberg)

Secondly, traders and investors are becoming more confident on a BoJ move later on this year, and further easing by JP policymakers (after Japan dismal figures: July household spending collapsed 5.9% YoY, Q2 GDP shrank by annualized 6.8% erasing Q1 gains, Housing starts down 14.1% in July…) is the main driver on Yen weakness according to analysts.

Eventually, another factor to look at would be Japanese institutional investors switching from bonds to stocks (and international stocks and bonds); we saw strong demand for French OAT from Japan last week. For instance, as you can see it below, GPIF, Japanese 1.2-trillion-dollar retirement fund, reduced its domestic bonds holdings by almost 10 percent in the past 3 years and has gradually increased its holdings of Japanese equities and International Bonds and Stocks. In June this year, it reported that it held 53.36% of domestic bonds and 17.26% of domestic stocks, down from 62.64% and 12.37% respectively back in 2011 (Abe’s effect). As a reminder, GPIF has a 60% target for domestic bonds and 12% for Japanese stocks, with 8% and 6% deviation limits respectively for those assets.

Gpif

Having said that, the 105 level could potentially act as a psychological resistance at the moment, next important level on the topside stands at 105.44, which corresponds to January 2nd high. USDJPY looks a bit overbought as you can see it on the chart below, and we will look for lower levels to start considering buying some more.

JPY-2-Sep(1)

(Source: Reuters)

Aussie pausing as expected…

The late US Dollar rally (USD index flirting with 83.00, its highest level since July 2013) hasn’t impact the Aussie (that much) and AUDUSD is still trading within its 5-month 0.92 – 0.95 range. The RBA left its cash rate steady at 2.50% (as expected) and looks unlikely to change it for some time, which is what we were assuming (see our article RBA is giving up…). The BBSW rates, which correspond to transparent rates for the pricing and revaluation of privately negotiated bilateral Australian dollar interest swap transactions, are trading quite flat with the 1-month and 6-month bills paying 2.66% and 2.69% respectively.

Despite AU annual inflation approaching the high of the RBA [2-3] percent inflation target range (Trimmed mean CPI came in at 2.9% YoY in the second quarter), AU policymakers noted slack in the job market and rising house prices.

The trend on AUDUSD looks bearish at the moment; we will try to sell some if the pair pops back above 0.9300 ahead of US employment reports on Friday. I’d put an entry level at 0.9330, with a tight stop loss at 0.9360 and a target at 0.9210.

Figures to watch this week:

AU GDP YoY (sep. 3rd): expected to ease back to 3.0% in the second quarter, down from 3.5%.
AU Trade balance (Sep 4th): expected to come in a -1.51bn AUD in July.
US Non-Farm Payrolls (Sep 5th):  expected to print at 225K in August, above the 200K level for the for the seventh consecutive month.