|By John Hardy|
Just ahead of the US jobs data on Friday, the People’s Bank of China hiked reserve requirements on CNY forwards (for onshore institutions) a move clearly aimed at stemming the one-way CNY depreciation ahead of the 7.00 level in USDCNY and as the CFETS-defined RMB basket reached the bottom of its range from a year ago.
The requirements went into effect today and haven’t triggered additional volatility beyond the sharp correction from new highs on Friday. Given this move, the focus on the 7.00 level takes on added importance as the market gauges to what degree China is mobilising the CNY in its trade spat with the US after announcing $60 billion of tariffs on US products. That move is guaranteed to elicit the next pointed response from President Trump whipping up populist sentiment on the campaign trail for Republican candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.
Note that China reports its FX reserves for July overnight and as we indicated on Friday, there is a very different spin on the situation depending on whether those reserves rose (doubtful, but if so, a strong signal of CNY weakening intent), stayed more or less the same (yawn), or shrank more than expected (a sign of capital flight and China losing control of the situation at some level).
The US data Friday saw a surprising turn of events. Payrolls and earnings data were indifferent and in-line, but the headline grabber (or at least what should have been the headline grabber as we are surprised how little the market reacted) was the July ISM Non-manufacturing survey dipping sharply to 55.7 vs. 58+ expected and versus 59.1 in June.
This is one of the worst month-to-month drops in the survey’s history, though we have seen mysterious dips before that were one-off affairs – it will take another monthly print for a sense that a trend is developing as well as other data that bolsters evidence that, as the growth pessimists claim, the US consumer is “tapped out”.
The most noted driver in G10 FX coming into this week is the weak euro, most likely on the increasing nervousness as Italy’s budget talks are under way. Italy’s leaders met last Thursday and the finance minister Tria made promising noises on obeying the EU’s maximum 3% deficit guideline, while Lega leader Salvini is loudly promising flat tax and basic income measures that will make it impossible to come anywhere near that limit. A showdown inevitably looms and traders are justifiably nervous. Bloomberg reports that Salvini claimed that the government will block “speculative attempts to influence growth trends” without specifying how.
In France, May’s meeting with Macron garnered no fresh sterling volatility or takeaways. Prominent Tory politician Liam Fox claimed that the risk of a no-deal Brexit are now 60-40 owing to the EU’s intransigence.
(Writer is Head of FX Strategy, Saxo Bank)