Fed and ECB previews

Forex

First up, the Federal Reserve kicks off its two-day meeting today (Apr 28th) and whilst there is always scope for a surprise, we would not anticipate any change to the policy outlook, chiefly because the Fed is no longer waiting for scheduled policy meetings but is operating in ‘real-time’.  

 

There is virtually zero chance the Fed will remove any accommodation until the threat of Covid-19 has passed. But if anyone thinks the FOMC will go negative they are in for a shock – there is no appetite to cut rates any lower and go below the zero lower bound. Europe and Japan are hardly shining examples of that policy working. Jay Powel has already ruled it out, though that in itself is not a reason it won’t happen.

 

The Fed has already thrown the kitchen sink at the market and the economy, announcing unlimited bond buying  – QE4ever – and expansion of corporate debt buying to include junk. There is not a huge amount left for the Fed could realistically do, save buying stocks outright and taking rates negative, neither or which are palatable or likely in the near term, partly because the efforts so far have calmed market stress and prevented further dislocation.  

 

Markets will be looking for any signal from Jay Powell about how the Fed views the rebound – is he still confident of a bounce back in the second half? Formal projections are not due until June. 

 

It’s a fairly similar story for the European Central Bank (ECB). We think they will not commit to any further policy moves right now but will likely signal they are ready to do so by June. The Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) QE lift has been initiated with an overall envelope of €750bn, and it appears likely to be expanded by an additional €500bn in the next month or three. 

 

Two key things will be the focus. First the communication needs to be crystal clear – we don’t want a repeat of the spreads widening fiasco from Christine Lagarde. Since then the ECB has been absolutely on-point. The ECB must be continue to show to the market that it stands four-square behind the functioning of markets, the single currency and supporting the EZ economy. And on this, I would anticipate a lot of the focus in the press conference to be on the European Council efforts on a bailout package. Watch the BTPs-Bund spreads for how the market views the ECB performance. 

 

EURUSD – as noted on Monday, speculators are dialling up their net long bets on the euro. The Commitment of Traders (COT) from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed euro net longs rose to 87.2k contracts in the week to Apr 21st, the most since May 2017. Traders turned long at the end of March and have been adding to positions since then. We saw a shift like this in speculative EUR positioning in 2017 it preceded a 15% rally in EURUSD.