Commodity currencies higher on trade war truce

3 minute read


In a widely-anticipated speech New York Fed president John Williams spoke about monetary policy but he disappointed investors by not touching on current rate settings. He simply described the difficulty of anchoring inflation expectations in low-rate, low inflation environment. There was nothing to be had by the dollar, either, from the day's only US ecostat; an eight-point rise in the Chicago purchasing managers’ index to 66.4. Investors were excited by news that Trump had agreed with the Chinese president to call a 90-day truce in the trade war but even that had minimal impact on the USD. It was just 0.1% firmer against the EUR.


Data from the euro zone were broadly unhelpful to the EUR. Unemployment did not tick lower, as forecast; it remained stuck at 8.1%. Headline inflation slowed to a provisional 2.0% while the core rate was down from 1.1% to 1.0%. Italy's economy contracted by 0.1% in Q3. The best of a bad bunch was this morning's manufacturing sector PMI. It beat expectations with a three-tick improvement to 51.8. Riots in Paris, France, in protest against higher gas prices and various other measures, had no impact on the EUR; they are seen as nothing more than an unfortunate domestic matter.


It was not quite the top performer, sharing second place with the AUD a step behind the NZD, but the CAD was still able to strengthen by 1.0% against the USD. Three things worked in its favour. The revision to Canadian gross domestic product confirmed annualized growth of 2.0% in the third quarter. The trade war truce struck by Trump and Xi in Buenos Aires sparked an improvement in risk-appetite in the Far East this morning. And an oil production deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia sent prices 4.6% higher. For good measure, Ontario's premier called for an 8.7% oil production cut in the New Year.


As next Tuesday's crucial Brexit vote drew nearer, another of Theresa May's ministers dropped by the wayside, calling her deal with the EU "naive" and "not in the national interest". The opposition Labour party reminded the country that it will bring a motion of no confidence if Mrs May loses that vote, possibly provoking a general election. Investors took all this in their stride. They had never heard of Mr. Sam Gyimah and the threat of a confidence vote was not a new one. The GBP is unchanged against the USD.


Another currency unchanged against the USD on the day is the JPY. It opened lower in the Far East this morning on the back of the trade war truce - as risk-appetite improves, demand for safe havens falls - before drifting back up to Friday morning's levels. Japan's Nikkei manufacturing PMI appeared to have a hand in this morning's rally; it unexpectedly improved to 52.2, having been expected to be unchanged at 51.8.

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