Money trumps everything: Foreign investments in the U.S.

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.

DXY Dollar Index 03/02/2017Finally, 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

Ignore Navarro comments, EUR short story intact

Trading started out quiet enough today, but after the Financial Times reported on Donald Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro's comments on a "grossly undervalued" euro today, EURUSD quickly shot up from 1.07 to 1.0813. The pair is currently trading at 1.0799.

Let's be reasonable for a moment though: The inflation outlook for the euro zone does not support any immediate EUR strength ("base effects"), Mario Draghi's ECB is still broadly dovish, and the year 2017 brings plenty of political risks for the currency bloc with tricky elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Federal Reserve is prepping for as much as three interest rate hikes that should, in theory at least, support the US dollar. In fact, if Trump's economic stimulus works out well, the Fed might even be inclined to hike rates faster or more often. Let's not forget that central banks are independent, either! Trump and his advisers have no real business telling anybody that their currencies should be revalued higher or lower, and if they do, the recipients of that message have absolutely no obligation to obey mighty Trump's orders (even if they come in form of a Tweet, which to my surprise has worked pretty well for the president so far).

What should a trader make of this mess? We must surely brace ourselves for an increase in two-sided volatility during the next few months to come. Any comment from Trump, Yellen and Draghi will violently and without warning push both EUR and USD pairs in either direction. The same goes for news about populist parties in Europe gaining support ahead of this year's elections. JPY pairs will be affected too, because the Japanese yen is still a typical currency for risk-on and risk-off trades.

Looking just at EURUSD, I believe the EUR has no real supportive story going for it for some time to come. Comments from Trump's adviser team won't change that. The euro zone has lots of homework to do, and a possible trade war with the U.S. won't help, either.

Resorting to technical analysis, it is true that the charts look slightly more supportive after today. In the daily chart above the pair managed to break out of its downtrend, which started in November 2016, and in the monthly chart it even jumped back over the long-term upwards trendline support going back to 2002 (second chart above). In theory, a monthly close above the trendline would signal that the previous break lower was indeed a false break, especially since EURUSD failed to permanently trade below the March 2015 low at 1.0458 (red dashed line).

Everything else is still telling me that the EUR short / USD long story is intact, however. As mentioned above, I don't attach a lot of value to Mr Navarro's comments anyway. It's more significant to me that EURUSD further decoupled from interest-rate differentials today (I think it will revert back soon) and that speculative EUR shorts ("smart money") have declined yet another week. That means market positioning is less extreme, thus permitting another extended move lower.

Open positions as of 31/01/2017 9:17pm CET:
EURTRY short from 4.0524, unrealized return: -0.26%

Realized YTD return: +0.7% from 2 trades
Total YTD return: +0.44% from 3 trades

USDCAD: Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA

News (real news, apparently) of Donald Trump's plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) made the rounds earlier today. USDCAD advanced somewhat after the news came out, but the move was short-lived. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone CEO and Trump's economic adviser, has since clarified that Canada shouldn't be too worried about the president's plan to renegotiate the trade agreement because the tough part of the negotiations would focus on another country (Mexico, duh) as trade between the US and Canada was largely balanced.

Still, the new US administration will certainly request modifications to be made. Talks will include Trump's proposed "big border tax", for example, a possible penalty on Canadian energy exports. Trump has made it very clear already that he doesn't believe in free trade. In his opinion, as stated during his meeting with US business leaders today, free trade isn't anything that really exists. Instead, he proposes a model he calls "fair trade", by which he means that if a country puts a tax on American exports he's going to introduce a tax on imports from that country in return.

USDCAD Daily 23/01/2017

I'm refraining from putting on a trade for now to see how things will play out. My bias is toward a stronger USD, however, and my first target would be 1.35 with a possible extension towards 1.40.

Recording from Donald Trump's meeting with US business leaders, courtesy of FOX news (of course):

Open positions as of 23/01/2017 8:58pm CET:
EURTRY short from 4.0524, unrealized return: +0.37%

Realized YTD return: +0.7% from 2 trades
Total YTD return: +1.07% from 3 trades

Selling USD vs EUR & TRY

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