The U.S. dollar kicked off this new trading week lower against all of the major currencies. Existing home sales fell more than expected in the month of May with year-over-year sales seeing its largest decline since 2010. While interest rates are at rock-bottom levels, weakness in the housing market is unsurprising because double-digit unemployment gives Americans very little confidence to snap up new homes. The housing market should experience one of the slowest recoveries, and the data will continue to reflect that. With that said, other parts of the economy are recovering faster. Treasury yields also fell, adding pressure on the greenback, while the lack of further losses in stocks helped to lift high-beta currencies.
There are only two things that really matter this week – the number of new COVID-19 cases and any headlines related to the extension of U.S. unemployment benefits or more stimulus. The White House said today that the outlines of a new $1-trillion-plus U.S. stimulus package is taking shape. There’s been a lot of talk around a second stimulus cheque payment or other coronavirus relief measures and, according to the latest announcement, it cold include unemployment extension and return-to-work incentives. As the July 31st expiration date for extended unemployment benefits nears, this conversation will gain momentum. According to the World Health Organization, Sunday saw the single biggest increase in COVID-19 cases worldwide. After major spikes in new coronavirus cases, this is a very important week for the U.S. Arizona and Florida reported a smaller increase in virus cases on Monday and if that trend continues, concerns about a second wave will ease, fuelling further gains in currencies and equities.
The New Zealand and Australian dollars were the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. dollar weakness. This is due, in part, to the improvement in sentiment and optimism that China has gotten its recent outbreak under control with only nine new infections in Beijing on Sunday. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand also meets tomorrow and given the country’s success in beating COVID-19 and relaxation of social distancing measures, we are looking for optimism from the central bank. Improvements in service and manufacturing activity should bolster the central bank’s confidence but still, its GDP growth rate turned negative in the first quarter. And while the country is fully on its way to recovery, it could still acknowledge uncertainties. The Canadian dollar also benefitted from the risk rally despite last Friday’s softer retail sales reports.
The euro and sterling will also be in focus on Tuesday, with June PMI numbers scheduled for release. After four straight days of losses, sterling rebounded on reports that the UK saw its fewest new coronavirus cases since the lockdown in March. Friday’s retail sales report was also stronger than expected and Brexit talks appear to be thawing. UK and Eurozone PMIs should be stronger with easier lockdown restrictions bolstering business activity. Unlike other parts of the world, the curve in the UK and Eurozone has remained relatively flat.