Federal Reserve – January, 2015

Last Wednesday (January 28, 2015), the Federal Reserve released its meeting statement for January 2015. They kept interest rates unchanged, for now. They maintained the key word “patient” on interest rate hike. “Patient” says that FOMC is not in a rush to raise the interest rates. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in the statement said “…economic activity has been expanding at a solid pace.  Labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate.” They viewed the economy in a good shape overall. Regarding inflation, they said ” Inflation has declined further below the Committee’s longer-run objective, largely reflecting declines in energy prices.” They are blaming declining oil prices for the decreasing inflation. They also said “Inflation is anticipated to decline further in the near term, but the Committee expects inflation to rise gradually toward 2 percent over the medium term as the labor market improves further and the transitory effects of lower energy prices and other factors dissipate.” They expect inflation to decline as oil continues to decline in the near term. “Near term” can be about 6 months. They’re also saying that they expect oil prices to increase in “medium term”, which also can lift inflation. “Medium term” can be around 2 years.

In the statement, they are giving us some clues of future rate hike. “…readings on financial and international developments.” can account for rates. If the future financial reports are positive and international situations cools down, they might go for rate hike. Therefore, “…the Committee judges that it can be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy.” What they said in 3rd paragraph of the last 2 sentences can be very helpful in predicting timing of rate hike, “Based on its current assessment,   However, if incoming information indicates faster progress toward the Committee’s employment and inflation objectives than the Committee now expects, then increases in the target range for the federal funds rate are likely to occur sooner than currently anticipated.  Conversely, if progress proves slower than expected, then increases in the target range are likely to occur later than currently anticipated. If the future financial reports come out very positive and way better than expectations, we can conclude that rate hike is nearing. If, it’s worse than expectations, then we can conclude that rate hike is too far, but reachable.

All 10 FOMC members agreed with the statement (unanimous) since June 2014. If a certain situation slightly changes. Some, but not all might change their views. If a certain situation changes dramatically, all of FOMC members might be unanimous in the future statements.

Financial markets’ reactions to FOMC statement.

Hourly Chart
Hourly Chart
USD-JPY reaction to FOMC Jan 2015
Hourly Chart

I will be watching future financial reports such as ISM Manufacturing PMI and jobs reports, which are coming out next week. Using these types of reports and more, I will try to time the rate hike. As of right now, I believe it’s coming in the summer.

 

 

European Central Bank (ECB) Announces Quantitative Easing (QE)

On Thursday (January 22, 2015), European Central Bank (ECB) announced Quantitative Easing (QE) program. They left interest rates unchanged. During the press conference, ECB governor, Mario Draghi announced quantitative easing to the tune of €60 billion ($67.5 trillion) per month from March 2015 to September 2016 (19 months). The total amount sums to €1.1 trillion ($1.25 trillion). The day before, there was reports that ECB was going to announces €50 billion per month until year end. On Thursday, we found out the truth, €60B a month until 2016. During the press conference, Draghi said “…conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation which is consistent with our aim of achieving inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.” He’s saying that QE program won’t end until they achieve their goal, inflation close to 2% but below.

The interest rates were left unchanged and it was not much market mover. But, during the press conference, when QE was announced, global markets were violent or should I say choppy?. European markets spiked, then dropped. By Friday (the day after QE was announced), European stocks hit 7-year highs. US markets rallied on Thursday. U.S markets rallied because more money are being pumped into U.S. However on Friday, U.S markets were mostly down because of worries that strong dollar will hurt U.S corporate earnings. Announcement of QE also knocked down euro to its knees. During the first 30 minutes of press conference (where QE was announced), EUR/USD was choppy. In the next 23 hours, EUR/USD fell all the way to 1.1113 (Friday 8 A.M EST) from around 1.1600 (post ECB conference), which is almost 500 pips in a day, actually 23 hours (from 9 A.M EST to 8. A.M EST).

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly

Tomorrow, we will find out the results of Greek Elections. I believe Greece is going to stay in Euro-zone, which is going to give EUR some relief. Then, it will be a good place to sell EUR/USD because QE (Bearish) weights more than Greek staying in Euro-zone (Bullish). If Greece leaves Euro-zone, it’s another reason to be bearish on Euro currency.

Why did ECB announce QE?

ECB announced QE to fight back low euro-zone inflation. Many Euro-zone countries are close to deflation while some of them are already there. To boost the economy, ECB will print more money and increase the amount of money available to financial institutions.

There’s also a hope that QE will boost equity markets. When Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced expansion of a large monetary-stimulus program in October 31, 2014 Japan time, Japan stocks skyrocketed and Yen tumbled.

What’s great about a weaker euro? It benefits manufacturers and exporting nations. But, it can hurt international companies such as Cisco Systems, IMB,  Pepsi, etc.

Unlike Swiss National Bank (SNB), announcement of QE by ECB was much anticipated. We all knew it was coming. Although I thought it was going to be limited for some time before full-blown QE kicks in. I thought ECB would hold off until February or March because of Greek elections. Anyway, QE is starting in a month or March.

 

Now, Bank of Canada (BoC) Shocks by rate cut. Who’s next?

On Wednesday (January 21, 2015), Bank of Canada (BOC) announced that it is cutting the overnight rate to 0.75% from 1.00%. Bank rate and deposit rates stay the same, bank rate at 1.00% and deposit rate at 0.5%. Their reason for cutting overnight rate by a quarter?

Oil is the reason. For the past six months, crude oil (WTI) has been declining about 60%. BOC says that drop in oil prices are “negative for growth and underlying inflation…”. Fall in oil prices hurts Canadian economy because they are 3rd largest oil-exporting country. Oil-importing countries, such as China and the United States are benefiting from low oil prices.

Crude Oil
Crude Oil – Daily

Immediately after the announcement, loonie (CAD) fell over 200 pips, pushing USD/CAD to 1.2273 from 1.2063 (210 pips) in first 15 minutes (From 10:00 AM to 10:15 AM). USD/CAD kept hitting new highs since early 2009 (still is, for now). BOC expects oil prices to be around $60 in medium term (next two years). During the opening statement, BOC governor, Stephen S. Poloz said something that gave little more power for loonie to decline.

USD/CAD
USD/CAD – Hourly

During the opening statement, Governer Poloz said “The Bank has room to maneuver should its forecast prove to be either too pessimistic or too optimistic.” If conditions gets worse than what BOC expects, they might cut the overnight rate further. The statement caused USD/CAD to jump little higher. At the end, one thing that was said surprised me. Governor said “…we discussed the risk that by moving today we would surprise financial markets. We generally prefer that markets not be surprised by what we do…” Two opposite things are being said here. But, there were some rumors to rate cut days before. Since oil price decline increases the downside to Canadian economy. Rate cuts are” intended to provide insurance against these risks.”

If oil continues to decline until March, BOC might cut the overnight rate. I believe that because they warned us of further cuts from both on a press release and press conference. As of right now, I believe crude oil will fall to an area of $40.50. Then, stay there for several weeks. I’m saying this because technical analysis. I’m not an expert on crude oil, yet.

Who’s next to cut the rates? I believe it’s Reserve Bank of Australia  (RBA). Since August 2013, Cash Rate Target has been staying at 2.50%. In the beginning, most of their monetary policy decisions statements included sentences “The exchange rate remains high by historical standards, particularly given the declines in key commodity prices, and hence is offering less assistance than it might in achieving balanced growth in the economy.” Now, they say “The exchange rate has traded at lower levels recently, in large part reflecting the strengthening US dollar. But the Australian dollar remains above most estimates of its fundamental value, particularly given the significant declines in key commodity prices in recent months. A lower exchange rate is likely to be needed to achieve balanced growth in the economy”. They were saying that to weaken Aussie. They know how much their “words” has the power to cause large changes in the exchange rate. In the long-term, AUD/USD was (still is) in a downtrend. They might cut rates in February (February 2, 2015) or March (March 2, 2015), to further weaken Aussie. Further information about RBA monetary policy can be found here. (Note: times/dates are in EST).

 

AUD/USD - Daily
AUD/USD – Daily

 

SNB Shocks Global Markets

Last Thursday (January 15) around 4:30 a.m, SNB (Swiss National Bank) surprised everybody and woke the markets up by ending the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro and lowering interest rate to -0.75% from -0.25%. The announcement was unscheduled. It was shocking to everybody and there’s more come to the story.

After seconds of the announcement, CHF rode in fastest  bull mode in the modern history. EUR/CHF went on free fall with no ground stop. SNB’s floor rate of 1.2000 for EUR/CHF was broken. A lot of people were long EUR/CHF with stops just below 1.2000. Not only the CHF pairs were effected, but also other pairs. Stops were triggered in seconds (or minutes) and panic spread like wildfire. Imagine a highway with all the automobiles driving more than 200mph and large truck in the middle suddenly stops in a second.

In September 2011, Swiss National Bank (SNB) called its currency (Swiss Franc) “Massive Overvaluation”. They wanted to weaken the Swiss Franc to improve their economy. Therefore, they set a floor rate of 1.2000 of EUR/CHF exchange rate. In a statement, they stated “The SNB will enforce this minimum rate with the utmost determination”. They were saying that they will do everything in their power not to allow the exchange rate break the floor rate. Their tone was still same in the late 2014. Ever since, they have been buying the foreign exchange in unlimited quantities, until last thursday (January 15, 2015).

After abandoning its currency, SNB stated that “Swiss franc is still high”. Well, it is even more higher now. Immediately after the announcement, CHF pairs sky-rocketed. EUR/CHF dropped from above 1.2000 to about 0.9705, over 2000 pips drop in one day. USD/CHF dropped from around 1.0200 to 0.8350, almost 2000 pips drop in one day. The reason for SNB’s action “divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have in increased significantly”. They are referring to Euro, which has depreciated a lot against USD, which has caused Swiss franc to weaken. That’s why they say that defending floor rate “no longer justified”. At the end of their statement, they said “remain active in the foreign exchange market to influence monetary conditions”. That’s what scares me. After what they did, we need to be cautious and not trade CHF pairs at this time.

 

EUR-CHF
EUR/CHF – Weekly

 

USD-CHF
USD/CHF – Weekly

 

SNB’s action looks suspicion for two reasons. First, SNB announces this sudden change of plans just a week before ECB meeting. Second, it looks like that IMF (International Monetary Fund) was not kept in loop.  I believe SNB is trying to buy time. The question is “For what?”. If they are trying to buy time, the move by SNB is only temporary (less 4 months).

 

2015-01-16-PROPHET
Comparison Chart – EUR/USD and USD/CHF

 

As to ECB, they have been decreasing the interest rates, which has caused Euro to decline a lot.. This week on Thursday (January 22, 2015), ECB will be releasing the results of their meeting. There has been a chatter (still is) that ECB will be announcing a full-blown Quantitative Easing (QE). At this time, I believe the interest rates will stay the same. Regarding to QE, I think QE will be announced, but limited. They might wait for Greek election results, which takes place on Sunday (January 25, 2015). Greece may exit Euro union and have their own currency. If they do, the currency will go down in value. I think full-blown QE will be announced in March 5.

Not only traders were effected, but also brokers such as FXCM. FXCM experienced significant losses ($225 million) and they may be in a breach of some regulatory capital requirements. When the news came out, their stock “FXCM” fell from around $12.50 to just below $1 (about 90% decline). In the morning of Friday, its stock was halt due to news pending. At 3:55, Dow Jones reported that Leucaidia National Corporation would be proving $300 million in cash to FXCM to continue normal operations. The agreement is in the form $300 million senior secured term loan with two-year maturity and an initial coupon of 10%. Immediately after the news, FXCM surged from around $1.50 to $4.50 (about 350% increase).

FXCM Ticker - SNB Effect
“FXCM” stock