PMI Day: Will FX Traders Care?

It has become abundantly clear over the past year that the market is driven by optimism. The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a major blow to every corner of the world, but rather than worrying about how deep the impact will be on local economies, investors and central bankers are looking to the recovery. We saw that throughout the second half of 2020 and now into 2021. Yesterday’s record-breaking move in the is a sign that investors see the glass half-full. And this week, it is clear that central bankers do so as well. 

 

This morning, the European Central Bank left monetary policy unchanged and said should “favorable financing conditions be maintained … the (PEPP) envelope need not be used in full.” 

 

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem shares a similar view. This morning he said: “If the economy plays out in line or stronger with our outlook, then the economy is not going to need as much quantitative easing stimulus over time.”

 

These slightly less dovish comments helped the rebound from yesterday’s losses and drove to fresh 2.5-year lows intraday. Outside of the comment on the PEPP envelope, there was nothing revealing in the ECB statement or President Christine Lagarde’s commentary. She avoided any direct criticism of the currency, saying only that FX appreciation is a drag on inflation. 

 

The Bank of Japan left monetary policy unchanged, but downgraded its economic assessment. It shaved 2020 GDP forecasts slightly, but raised its 2021 GDP forecast, attributing the increase to its view that despite high uncertainty, the economy will continue to pickup. 

 

Looking ahead, PMI reports are scheduled for release from New Zealand, Australia, Eurozone, UK and the U.S. New Zealand and Australian data should be better, reflecting their ongoing recovery. Both and extended their gains on Thursday following Australia’s latest employment report. Although job growth slowed to 50,000 from 90,000, this increase was in line with expectations and accompanied by an improvement in the unemployment and participation rates. Tonight, New Zealand releases manufacturing PMI and consumer prices, followed by Australia’s January flash PMI reports. With warm weather and low coronavirus cases, improvements are expected in both countries.

 

In contrast, extended lockdowns in Europe should translate into weaker Eurozone and UK PMIs, but the big question is how much will that matter to FX traders? 

 

The persistent rally in euro and tell us that investors have largely priced in weaker numbers. They’ve shrugged off soft reports throughout the past year and may do so again as central bankers look to second-half recoveries. For the most part, Eurozone data hasn’t been terrible, with improvements in the latest German industrial production and ZEW surveys. While PMIs can be very market-moving, any negative impact on the euro and sterling may be short lived. 

 

The same should be true of U.S. Markit PMIs and existing home sales. Canadian retail sales are due for release on Friday. Between weaker wholesale sales growth and job losses, consumer spending is expected to be weaker. Despite BoC optimism, if there is a major downside surprise, we could see aggressive short-covering flows.

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