Stocks Sell Off, U.S. Dollar Follows

Twenty-four hours after the Federal Reserve pledged to keep interest rates at zero until 2023, the U.S. dollar extended its losses against all of the major currencies. The greenback fell the most against the euro and the New Zealand dollar and was the most resilient versus Aussie and Sterling.


The day started with very little consistency for the greenback, but by the end of the New York session, despite losses in stocks, it was clear that the Fed’s dovish outlook made the dollar less attractive. The latest U.S. economic reports were mostly weaker than expected. Housing starts and building permits declined in the month of August, while the Philadelphia Fed index failed to show improvements like the Empire State survey. Yet, USD/JPY rallied, thanks in part to lower jobless claims.


The Bank of Japan’s decision to leave monetary policy unchanged was widely expected. Although it upgraded its economic assessment, there was very little reaction in the Yen because, at the end of the day, the government is in no position to increase or decrease stimulus. USD/JPY, which sold off for four consecutive trading days, should bounce if equities recover, but the trend of mixed U.S. data combined with the Fed’s dovish long-term policy means the path of least resistance should be lower. 


The Bank of England also left monetary policy unchanged but, unlike the BoJ, its outlook was slightly more dovish. The central bank described the economic outlook as “unusually uncertain.” This cautious stance should be no surprise given the serious risk of a no-deal Brexit, rise in coronavirus cases, return of some social distancing measures and expiration of a program that helped millions of unemployed workers. While the decision to keep policy unchanged was unanimous with no members voting in favor of immediate easing, the central admitted that it was briefed on negative interest rates and their potential effectiveness. This suggests that it is considering more stimulus, which can be very bearish for the currency, especially as it is one of the few central banks actively considering more easing. In fact, there’s talk of a rate cut as early as November. 


The Australian dollar ended the day lower despite surprisingly strong labor market numbers. Economists were looking for another month of job losses (-50,000 was the forecast) but Australia added 111,000 jobs. There were more part-time hires than full time but still, the increase helped drive the unemployment rate down to 6.8% from 7.5%. The Australian government also relaxed restrictions in regional Australia, but increased the penalty for anyone trying to leave the city of Melbourne to A$4,957 from A$1,652. AUD/USD should have rallied, but risk aversion prevented the currency pair from moving higher. 


For New Zealand, we learned that the country fell into recession in the second quarter, with GDP growth contracting 12.4%. 


The Canadian dollar is in focus tomorrow with retail sales scheduled for release. Stronger labor data and less dovishness from the Bank of Canada has investors hoping for an upside surprise. 

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