Sat, Apr 01, 2023 @ 03:42 GMT
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Euro/ECB About to Outhawk Both USD/Fed and GBP/BoE


The Fed unanimously decided to raise its policy rate by 25 bps to 4.5%-4.75%, in a second consecutive downshift (+75 bps in November; +50 bps in December). In its new policy statement, they still commit to future increases (multiple) in the policy rate, but a reference to pace (magnitude of hikes) is changed by one to extent (amount of hikes), indicating that the final steps before hitting the peak rate will definitely be 25 bps moves. The Fed characterizes inflation as remaining elevated, but added that it has eased somewhat. Russia’s war against Ukraine contributes to elevated uncertainty instead of putting upward pressure on inflation (December statement). In the space between the release of the statement and Fed Chair Powell’s press conference, front end yields added around 5 bps. Stocks faced moderate selling pressure while EUR/USD tried to dive back below 1.09. All from the point of view that multiple hikes from the current level imply a higher peak rate than discounted. (>5% vs <5%).

Enter Powell. Known for his pragmatic communication style, he actually pulled a(n early) Lagarde. He lacked his usual fire (not fully recovered from his Covid-infection?) to talk up the market to the Fed’s projected rate path and at sometimes it even felt as a capitulation trade: “Certainty is just not appropriate here. I’m not going to try to persuade people to have a different forecast, but our forecast is that it will take some time and some patience, and that we’ll need to keep rates higher for longer”. While we think that the Fed will deliver two more 25 bps rate hikes in March and May, Powell did seem to prepare markets for a potential change in dots going forward by making them data-dependent on fresh reports of hiring, inflation and activity before that meeting. On inflation, he mentioned for the first time that the disinflationary process has started. Finally when it comes to the unwanted easing of financial conditions since the previous meeting (weaker dollar, lower/stable rates, tighter credit spreads, stronger stock markets) he said that “the Fed’s focus is not on short-term moves”. For the record: Powell stuck for most of the press moment to his hawkish views, saying that the inflation battle isn’t won, that the labour market remains extremely tight, that the risk/consequences of underdoing it are way bigger than the ones around staying the course and that policy will remain restrictive for some time to come. We give outsized weight to these small “dovish” twists during the Q&A session because they sparked the market reaction that followed: a U-turn. US yields tanked 9 to 11 bps in the 2-10yr bucket of the curve with the very long end underperforming (-6.6 bps). YTD lows are still out of reach for now. Fed Funds future lost around 5 bps from H2 2023 onwards and around 10 bps early 2024 (Dec23 at 4.5%).US stock markets turned losses into gains, rallying by up to 2% for Nasdaq. EUR/USD took out 1.0942 (50% retracement on 2021-2022 decline) to currently trade above 1.10 for the first time since April of last year. The pair is testing the topside of the upward trend channel in place since the end of November. EUR/GBP joined the rise higher, testing the high 0.88-resistance zone. The euro/ECB is about to outhawk both USD/Fed and GBP/BoE. Both ECB and BoE will likely deliver a 50 bps rate hike today, with Lagarde hopefully succeeding where Powell failed: convincing markets of a tighter policy ahead. BoE Bailey will likely sound more cautious, helped by slightly better growth and slightly lower inflation forecasts. We expect German Bunds to sell-off, underperforming US Treasuries and UK Gilts. A tougher risk climate can amplify worries for GBP while creating some breathing space for USD.

News Headlines

Central Bank of Brazil left its Selic interest rate unchanged at 13.75%, as expected. Still the communiqué was rather hawkish. Policy committee Copcom said that while ‘recent set of indicators continues to be in line with the scenario of deceleration,…consumer inflation as well as the various measures of underlying inflation are above the range compatible with meeting the inflation target’. Inflation in January was 5.87%. The bank targets inflation of 3.25% for this year and 3.0% from 2024/25. The Bank also refers to uncertainty on fiscal policy as a factor that requires further attention when evaluating risks. In this respect, the bank ‘remains vigilant, assessing if the strategy of maintaining the Selic rate for a longer period than in the reference scenario will be enough to ensure the convergence of inflation’.The Committee reinforces that future monetary policy steps can be adjusted and will not hesitate to resume the tightening cycle if the disinflationary process does not proceed as expected’. The Basilian real rose further against the dollar (USD/BRL 5.05) but this was mainly due to the decline of the dollar post-Fed.

KBC Bank
KBC Bank
This non-exhaustive information is based on short-term forecasts for expected developments on the financial markets. KBC Bank cannot guarantee that these forecasts will materialize and cannot be held liable in any way for direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this document or its content. The document is not intended as personalized investment advice and does not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold investments described herein. Although information has been obtained from and is based upon sources KBC believes to be reliable, KBC does not guarantee the accuracy of this information, which may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions and estimates constitute a KBC judgment as of the data of the report and are subject to change without notice.

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