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Dollar Outlook Ahead of the FOMC Meeting

There is much data that will be reported in the week ahead.  The US reports consumer prices, retail sales and industrial output figures. The eurozone reports industrial production and the final August CPI.  Germany's ZEW will be released.  The UK reports consumer prices, the latest labor market readings and retail sales. Japan reports industrial production and trade figures.  

 

However, the data is pales in comparison to the central bank meetings.  The focus is of course on the Federal Reserve, but the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank also meet.   The general view in the market is that none of the central banks act.   Yet the risks abound.  

 

The Swiss National Bank is the least likely to surprise.  Without much fanfare, the euro has steadily risen against the Swiss franc, and before the weekend reached its highest level (~CHF1.1050) since the franc's cap was lifted back in January.  The SNB will say it is ready to act if needed but there is not sense of urgency at the moment.  Moreover, the record paper losses the SNB reported in H1 14 is being pared this quarter.  The Swiss franc has depreciated about 3.5% against the dollar since the end of June and 5.2% against the euro.  

 

There is only a slightly greater chance that the BOJ moves.  Most who expect additional monetary stimulus see it coming next month rather than now.  With deflationary forces not convincingly defeated, inflation far from the goal, and economic growth patchy, many think the BOJ has to step up its unorthodox monetary easing.    If boosting the monetary base by JPY80 trillion a year is not sufficient, will growing it by JPY90 trillion really do the trick, as member of parliament and an adviser to Abe suggested last week?  

 

BOJ Governor Kuroda is still sounding relatively upbeat.  He seems to be playing down the official core measure of CPI (which excludes fresh food), and seems to be placing more emphasis on the measure that excludes food and energy.   After spending the last few months on his controversial political agenda, Abe appears to returning to economic issues, and fiscal support for the economy, which could include a supplemental budget as early as next month.  Pending fiscal stimulus also argues against more monetary easing.  

 

The Federal Reserve is really center stage.  The issues have been debated ad nauseum.  The Fed had seemed to be edging toward a hike next week before the recent Chinese developments, and the jump in capital market volatility.   Indeed the subsequent tightening of financial market conditions, and the slide in the US stock market, has been more associated with easing monetary policy, not tightening it.  

 

What interests us here is the dollar's technical condition ahead of the FOMC meeting. Simply stated, that technical condition is soft.  After losing against all the major currencies but the Japanese yen last week, the dollar's heavy tone looks set to carry over into the week ahead. 

 

The US Dollar Index retraced 38.2% of the rally from the August 24 low (~92.62) to the September 3 high (~96.62) at the end of last week.  The RSI and MACDs are pointing lower and the five-day moving average is poised to fall below the 20-day average.   A break of 95.00 now warns of a move to 94.60 and possibly 94.15.  

 

This is similar to the euro, which has the largest weight in the Dollar Index.  The euro actually finished last week above a similar retracement (38.2%) , which came in a little above $1.1325.  The five-day average will likely cross above the 20-day average at the start of the new week.  The next immediate target is $1.1400, and then $1.1475.  A loss of the $1.1220-$1.1250 area signal a loss of the upside momentum.  

 

The dollar is more clearly in a trading range against the yen.  Of note, the dollar has not closed above its 20-day moving average since August 18.  It is found now near JPY120.95. A move above there needs to overcome the JPY121.30 area to be important.   A minor shelf has been carved near JPY120, but better support may be found near JPY119.60. 

 

Sterling snapped a nine-day losing streak and rallied 1.7% last week.  It tested the 20-day moving average (~$1.5465).  It too has retraced a little more than 38.2% o the losses from the last August spike (~$1.5420) and the early September low (~$1.5165).  The next objective (50% retracement) is just above $1.5492.  The 50- and 100-day moving averages around found in the $1.5515-$1.5525 range.   Soft inflation and retail sales data next week may be mitigated by an uptick in average weekly earnings and a generally healthy labor market report.  However, if the $1.5340 level goes, sterling may retest its recent lows.  

 

The Australian dollar was the strongest of the major currencies last week.  It rose about 2.65% against the US dollar, and resurfaced above the monthly trend line that had been convincingly violated (~$0.7030 before slipped a little through $0.6900 at the start of last week).  It closed firmly and the technical indicators are favorable.  The 20-day moving average is near $0.7135, but there is potential toward $0.7170-$0.7200.  

 

The Canadian dollar is not particularly interesting from a technical point of view.  The US dollar reached a multi-year high in late August (~CAD1.3555) and has moved sideways near is peak over the last couple of weeks.  This has neutralized the technical tools on which we rely.   The two current exogenous drivers are oil prices, which were net-net heavier last week, and the two-year interest rate differential, which saw the US premium narrow a couple basis points last week.  While this does not seem like much, according to Bloomberg it closed at its lowest level since late July (a little the than 24 bp).  Only a break of CAD1.3550 or CAD1.3120 would be noteworthy,  

 

We would not expect 10-year US Treasuries to move much ahead of the outcome of the FOMC meeting.  Last week's range of roughly 2.12%-2.25% will likely remain intact, barring a significant data surprise or a sharp increase in stock market volatility.  

 

The November light sweet crude oil futures contract retraced 50% of its late-August through early-September run-up.  A break of the $44 are could spur another quick dollar drop to the 61.8% retracement that is found just below $43.   The November contract has not closed below its 20-day moving average (~$44.25) since August 27.   On the upside offers will likely come in around $47 the upper end of the recent range.  

 

The technical condition of the S&P 500 looks encouraging.  The pre-weekend close was on the highs and the MACDs have turned higher.   However, it has failed to close above its 20-day moving average (~1979) since August 18.  Above there, re-establishing a foothold above 1985-2000 would encourage ideas that the correction is complete.   Initial support is seen near 1937.