Only a few days ago nobody was looking at Europe, despite the many challenges faced by the euro area this year. All eyes were on Trump, the US dollar fell after negligible comments made by the president and his staff of economic advisers. What a difference a weekend makes! It's Tuesday, the EUR is weakening for a second day in a row and miraculously the whole narrative by market watchers has changed. Analysts are highlighting the risk from European election outcomes that might endanger the euro zone, possibly even the European Union. It is as if market commentators woke up and, in unison, had the same thought: Anxiety now! The switch has been flicked, USD risk-off has been turned into EUR risk-off. It's a new week, so let's have a new story to tell. To be frank, I'm fed up with researchers and self-proclaimed journalists (who are doing a lot of things these days, but definitely not serious journalism) wanting to explain to me why an asset has moved in a certain direction after the fact. Instead, they should be separating the important news from all the noise (mostly coming from Trump these days), study the evidence revealed by their research and then make appropriate deductions about the state of the market as well as implications this might have for the future. Too often analysts change their opinion even after minuscule changes in asset prices, instead of showing any sign of confidence in their own research. How can this type of market analysis be taken seriously? Don't even get me started on journalism... The Economist aside, there's little I can read nowadays without having a total freak-out. Anyway, let's not digress: I'm standing firmly by my EUR short / USD long call.
Open positions as of 07/02/2017 08:56am CET:
EURTRY short from 4.0524, unrealized return: +2.75%
EURUSD short from 1.0795, unrealized return: +1.05%
Realized YTD return: +0.7% from 2 trades
Total YTD return: +4.5% from 4 trades
Isn't it interesting how pithy comments by Donald Trump set so many wheels in motion so quickly? Apparently, this is even true for countries that are potential targets for criticism by the U.S. administration for being alleged currency manipulators or unfair trading partners. Unbalanced trade is a major issue for Team Trump. China is the prime foe, but countries such as Canada, Mexico, Germany and South Korea, who feature trade surpluses with the United States and some of whose currencies are undervalued relative to the USD as measured by PPP, are in Trump's crosshairs, too.
Perhaps the jawboning is a tactic by Donald Trump, the dealmaker, his opening move in lengthy negotiations that will ultimately lead to more jobs in the U.S. and an increase in exports by American companies. The president's tough stance on trade has borne fruit already: Several American corporations have committed to building factories in the United States instead of Mexico. Now even foreign entities seem to be succumbing freely to Trump's demands: Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which controls more than $1.1 trillion in assets, is reportedly planning to make substantial U.S. infrastructure investments, and technology giant Samsung Electronics may build a new U.S. factory for home appliances. Trump is selling these headlines as early success stories on his way to fulfilling his "Make America Great Again" campaign pledges. Looking at it more objectively, one must ascertain that these "successes" have been achieved without any resistance whatsoever. Let's see how his tactics hold up once he actually has to negotiate with another country. Trump hasn't really been tested so far, but we already know how badly he reacts under pressure.
Finally, a quick afterthought relating to Peter Navarro's criticism of Germany: While it is true that German exporters benefit from a weak euro, it has been the ECB that weakened the common currency (indirectly, mind you, because it's not really within its mandate to do so). German politicians as well as Jens Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank, have openly opposed the ECB's lax monetary policy. Hence Navarro's statement that Germany manipulated "its currency" to gain an unfair competitive advantage is hardly justified - you might even go as far as saying it's utter nonsense. My original commentary here.
Open positions as of 03/02/2017 12:38pm CET:
EURTRY short from 4.0524, unrealized return: +1.27%
EURUSD short from 1.0795, unrealized return: +0.55%
Realized YTD return: +0.7% from 2 trades
Total YTD return: +2.52% from 4 trades
I'm still waiting for that ingenuous trade idea to pop into my head. Everything seems to be challenging my USD long view right now - at least in the short run.
Given that lack of inspiration I'm turning to a country that's known for being just as neutral: I like the EURCHF chart below. Nice trendline that's been confirmed a couple of times since 2007.
Open positions as of 18/01/2017 9:00am CET: Flat
Realized YTD return: +0.7% from 2 trades
Following yesterday's disastrous Trump press conference I'm buying EURUSD at 1.0646 with a first target at 1.0720 (trendline from 2002). I'm also selling USDTRY at 3.81. Originally, I was going to buy TRY vs EUR to pick up carry but with Trump being the clown that he is I'm hoping for USD weakness in the short term.
Update 3:50 PM CET:
USDTRY short closed at 3.77 for quick 1.06% profit, EURUSD long still open
My frequent readers know by now that I've been very vocal about US dollar strength throughout this year. It is true that there have been many a times during the past 12 months when the dollar depreciated against the euro and, in particular, against the Japanese yen. That was usually the case when the Federal Reserve kept the market guessing about its future policy moves, including the timing of its first interest rate hike, or when the European Central Bank could not persuade the market of its capability to sustainably increase inflation through its monetary policies, such as negative interest rates and extensive quantitative easing programmes. However, no matter how tenacious the dollar's sideways range has been (just look at EURUSD, which had been stagnating since April 2015), I've always stuck with my conviction that the US dollar would ultimately emerge from this inconvenient bout of range trading as the stronger currency in comparison to the rest of the G10 currency basket.
The main reason being that the US economy has been able to put its economic recession behind itself earlier than European economies managed to do. This time gap of perhaps one to two years was a strong indicator of increasingly divergent fiscal and monetary policies in the US and throughout the euro zone that would help strengthen the US dollar and, on the other hand, devalue the euro. Although this did indeed happen to some degree up until March 2015 when the EURUSD exchange rate came close to reaching $1.05 but instead came to a halt at the intersection of two long-term trend lines and entered the aforementioned sideways market. I must admit that I greatly underestimated the amount of time it would take for the US dollar to resume its appreciation, and that it would be the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States that would trigger the dollar's renewed vigor is still somewhat beyond me.
Anyway, the time has finally come that we're seeing a strong trend in EURUSD again. The only thing that worries me at this time is the pace at which it unfolded. Within merely 10 trading days we went from the election night high of $1.13 to today's low of $1.0568 -- that's almost an eight big figure move without noteworthy backlash! The daily RSI currently reads 22 and other oscillators confirm that the pair is oversold. While I appreciate the fact that such moves often extend even beyond these levels, I must also acknowledge that the previously favourable risk-return profile of the EURUSD short trade has worsened significantly, which is exactly why I closed my USD long trades yesterday. Traders thinking about selling the euro versus the US dollar should think thoroughly before doing so. Personally, I expect a bit of profit taking to begin soon, but I will stand ready to buy the US dollar again once the extreme momentum has abated. The US dollar still has the majority of arguments on its side, and that is not going to change unless the ECB and, more importantly, the Fed will disappoint in December. Next month will be at least as interesting (or should I say, challenging?) as this month turned out to be.