ECB: Pandemic focus

Forex

With the euro gaining ground again versus the US dollar, attention in the FX markets will be on the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting on Thursday.

Market participants are increasingly betting on the ECB carrying out further easing in a bid to boost faltering economic growth and stagnant prices.

The Eurozone slid into its second straight month of deflation in September and with further lockdowns being imposed across the bloc, the risks to the economic outlook have clearly deteriorated since the last meeting and the assumptions for growth contained in the ECB’s September look out of step with reality.

Weakness in Friday’s PMIs highlight the concern among businesses, particularly in services. The threat of a double dip recession is real, and Christine Lagarde recently commented that the resurgence of the virus is a clear risk to the economy.

Given the murky outlook and dreadful inflation backdrop it seems all but certain the ECB will increase its bond buying programme by another €500bn by December – albeit it may choose to increase PSPP rather than PEPP – for the markets these acronyms won’t matter too much – it’s the size and duration of the liquidity injection that matters, not how it is presented.

Lagarde may drop some hints in the press conference to increasing PSPP/PEPP envelopes in December, but will not over-commit. Moreover, with progress on delivering on the fiscal side slow, the ECB will feel obligated to step up.

To get a flavour of the mood in the ECB, the usually hawkish Austrian central bank head Robert Holzmann said recently: “More durable, extensive or strict containment measures will likely require more monetary and fiscal accommodation in the short run.”

As far as the currency goes (why else are we bothering?), the line in the sand for the central bank was 1.20 on EURUSD – a level that prompted chief economist Philip Lane to comment that “the euro-dollar rate does matter”.

Traders should pay attention to any nod to currency worries from Christine Lagarde – another run at 1.20 looks credible, particularly if there is a Democrat clean sweep in November’s elections as this is seen as a headwind for the dollar and likely positive for the euro due to better trade relations.

Fundamentally it will be more of the same from the ECB with it stressing it is ready to do more and the momentum is with the doves to ease more.

Meanwhile, there are also meetings of the Bank of Japan and Bank of Canada taking place this week.