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Risk-off trading steadies

August 20,2021 06:40:48

Overnight Headlines

*USD pushed higher to 93.56, a level last seen in November

*US stocks fluctuated between gains and losses before ending mixed

*VIX on track for its biggest weekly surge since January

*Commodities fall again, now holding at lows

USD rose to nine-month highs as the market battled an increasingly hawkish Fed and ever more new Delta infections and lockdowns. Commodity currencies fared the worst with AUD and CAD falling over 1%. EUR slipped to a new low at 1.1665 while GBP tumbled 0.9% to 1.3629 and below the March low. JPY gained on safe haven demand as USD/JPY closed below 110.

US equities endured a volatile session with the broader S&P500 eventually closing in the green. Defensive sectors held up, but tech too which hasn’t generally been the case in recent history. Small cap stocks underperformed with the US Russell 2000 posting six straight days of declines. Asian stocks are lower this morning with China leading the drop. European futures are modestly higher while US stocks are pointing to a softer open.

Market Thoughts – Seasonality trends finally coming to light

Historical research shows that stock markets have a tendency to underperform through the middle part of the year. (“Sell in May” and all…) In turn, volatility tends to increase which means safe haven currencies are likely to outperform. The VIX, “Wall Street’s fear gauge”, tends to see the largest monthly rise of the year in August and remains elevated through to Autumn.

Although volatility has only really spiked on a couple of occasions so far over the last few months, the narrow leadership in US stocks is a sign we should be careful of a worsening in the broader risk environment. And since the more hawkish June FOMC meeting, the FX space has seen outperformance in JPY and USD. Meanwhile the top performing major in the first half of the year, CAD, has weakened 3% with AUD and NZD adding to their early year losses.

Chart of the Day – AUD/JPY extends losses, now overdone

AUD/JPY is known as the classic risk barometer for FX markets. You have the small, open economy with big commodity and China exposure paired with the yen, which is the ultimate safe haven with the world’s largest saving base. Although the pair has decoupled from the positive correlation it historically has with the S&P500, it still acts as a bellwether for broader risk sentiment.

After battling with the 200-day SMA for a month or so back in July, the pair broke through this for the first time since May last year. The July low at 79.83 has been taken out this week with seven straight days of losses. We are now deeply oversold on the daily RSI and some way through the lower Keltner band. There should also be some support from last summer’s high at 78.46.

Jamie DuttaAnalyst / Trader

"With extensive experience as a full time trader and financial market commentator, I have worked as a trader in top tier investment banks and trading houses, including Morgan Stanley and GAIN Capital trading Forex, Index derivatives. and Bonds. I combine technical analysis with a deep fundamental knowledge to identify trade set-ups. My real life experience allows me to break down the complexities of financial jargon and trading. This means everyone can better understand the compelling forces of greed and fear which are realised every day in countless ways across markets."

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