Last week, the global reserve currency continued to appreciate rapidly and reached its highest level since January 2017. The market was worried about the rapid spread of the corona virus in Europe and the U.S., prompting investors to channel capital into safe currencies - the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen.
U.S. economic data has been out of spotlight for some time. Market participants are following statements by politicians about quarantine in major U.S. cities and the closure of unnecessary services and public places. New York and Los Angeles have already made these difficult decisions, and other cities are also following this path as the number of people infected is growing very rapidly. Quarantine triggered a wave of layoffs in the services sector, with new unemployment claims jumping from 211 to 281 thousand last week. The biggest worry is that the situation in the country is still deteriorating and, according to various estimates, the number of people infected for at least the next 2 weeks will increase rapidly, which will trigger even more protective measures, layoffs and worsening sentiment between the population and business.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has cut interest rates to 0-0.25% and increased bond purchase volumes, which has already raised the FED's balance-sheet to nearly 4.7 trillion USD, which is a new record. Also, the country's politicians are actively discussing to implement "helicopter money", when the government is planning to pay 1,000 USD to residents who earn less than 75,000 USD a year.
The main currency pair EUR/USD depreciated sharply to its April 2017 low. The Old Continent is now the epicenter of the virus, with all major economies showing a booming infection rate. Worst of all, Italy and Spain have already reached a critical level, when the country's health system is no longer able to help all infected patients and is forced to prioritize the most sick, which leads to rising mortality. Italy even imposed a military lockdown. Reflecting the social situation, the European economy is virtually stagnant - Italy, Spain, France, part of Germany - is quarantined, people are restricted and many businesses are forced to stop. Even major automakers have announced that they are stopping factories to protect workers and reflect the fall in demand that has plagued the entire supply chain across Europe. The European Central Bank has announced additional stimulus measures, a 750 billion EUR program to buy government and business bonds and reduce borrowing costs and increase liquidity. EUR/USD has ended the week depreciating -3.7%.
The key Asian pair USD/JPY appreciated and returned to 111.0-point level. Japan has so far managed to prevent the epidemic and there are only about one thousand cases of the virus in the country. Last week, it was even announced that schools and kindergartens in some regions, which were temporarily closed, would soon reopen. Economic data was also quite positive, with exports declining only -1% yoy in February. However, it is important to note that as the world goes through a pandemic, Japan will also feel a decline in demand from its major trading partners. USD/JPY has ended the week appreciating 2.7%.
The British pound has again significantly depreciated. GBP/USD pair has fallen to 1.15 level, the lowest level in the last few decades. Britain's politicians have been slow in making decisions to contain the virus, and the number of people now infected is growing rapidly. However, the Bank of England is setting an example in making important decisions quickly, with the interest rate cut again to 0.1% and the announcement of a 200 billion quantitative stimulus program to buy debt instruments. GBP/USD has ended the week depreciating -5.1%.
This week, the focus will be on the news about the virus and the responding actions of politicians. Meanwhile, the economic indicators calendar will be calm on Monday, while on Tuesday manufacturing PMI indices are expected. Britain's inflation and U.S. industrial orders data will be monitored on Wednesday. Retail figures for Britain and unemployment applications in the U.S. are expected on Thursday. On Friday, no major news was scheduled.
According to Admiral Markets market sentiment data, 52% of investors have long positions in the EUR/USD pair (increased +14 percentage points compared to last week). In the main Asian pair USD/JPY, 42% of investors have long positions (down -9 percentage points). In the GBP/USD pair, 70% of participants expect a rise (increased +2 percentage points). Such market data is interpreted as contraindicative, suggesting appreciation in USD/JPY, depreciation in the GBP/USD pair and EUR/USD at a neutral level. Analysis of positioning data needs to be combined with fundamental projections and technical analysis.
Sources: bloomberg.com, reuters.com, Admiral Markets MT4 Supreme Edition, investing.com
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