With August drawing to a close, the Federal Reserve’s decision to shift its inflation focus last week is catching up to the US dollar. The greenback traded lower against all of the major currencies except for the Japanese yen. USD/JPY marched to its own tune despite end of month profit taking in US stocks and the sell-off in Treasury yields. This could be tied to political and economic uncertainty in Japan. One of the big stories last week was Prime Minister Abe’s decision to step down over health issues. Japanese retail sales also fell more than expected while vehicle production, construction orders and housing starts continued to tumble. Inflation in Tokyo declined, a sign that deflation continues to be an ongoing battle in Japan. With that said, USD/JPY ended the NY session off its highs and should trend lower in the days ahead on the prospect of weaker ISMs and nonfarm payrolls. Manufacturing ISM is scheduled for release tomorrow and given the drop in the Empire State and Philadelphia Fed surveys, we expect the report to show a slowdown across the nation.
The best performing currency today was the Canadian dollar which rose to fresh 7 month highs versus the greenback. Building permits in Canada dropped more than expected but with coronavirus cases under control, the outlook for Canada is brighter than other countries. Labor market numbers are due at the end of the week and even if fewer jobs are expected in August, Canada is poised for a smoother recovery compared to its peers.
EUR/USD hit 1.1950 on the back of US dollar weakness. German inflation data was weaker than expected and new coronavirus cases continued to climb over the weekend in Spain and France. However the euro was unfazed because the main focus this week is the US dollar. German labor market numbers are due for release tomorrow along with Eurozone CPI. According to the PMIs, the labor market weakened so the risk is to the downside for both releases.
Trailing not far behind is the Australian dollar. AUD is in focus this week with Q2 GDP, retail sales, PMI, trade and a Reserve Bank of Australia monetary policy announcement on the calendar. The RBA is widely expected to leave monetary policy unchanged tonight but the lockdown in Victoria could make the central bank more cautious.
When the central bank met in August, they left interest rates unchanged, predicted a bumpy recovery but stepped back bond purchases. Since then, Prime Minister Morrison said the lockdown in Victoria could cost the economy 2.5% of GDP. Consumer and business confidence declined further as spending activity weakened. Service and construction sector activity improved but these numbers do not capture the full impact of the lockdown.
At minimum, the RBA will need to admit that Australia entered a technical recession in Q2 (the numbers will be released after RBA) but between the lockdown, a recession and China-AU trade tensions, the central bank has very little cause for optimism. Over the weekend, trade tensions with the country’s most important partner worsened as China launched a second investigation into Australian wines and detained a prominent Australian journalist.