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June 23rd 2009

Is Risk Aversion Back?

At the end of last week, I posed a question: what will be the next theme to dominate forex markets? Perhaps the answer can be found in Monday’s massive market selloff (“Triple-M Monday” anyone?), the worst day for stocks in over two months. Commodities and currencies- both of which have taken their cues from stocks of late- also trended downwards. 
changing-direction 
While I would be the first to caution against reading too much into one day (especially since the early indications are that some of these losses will be erased today), it’s possible that yesterday marked the breakout that many technical analysts have called for over the last few weeks. Asked one such analyst last week, “Taking a step back to look at the daily price action of the EUR/USD, we can clearly see that the currency pair is consolidating and a sharp breakout is imminent. The big question is, will it be an upside or downside breakout?”
 
What was the catalyst for Monday’s selloff? Perhaps it was my blog post on uncertainty: “The World Bank said Monday that prospects for the global economy remain ‘unusually uncertain,’ and it cut its 2009 growth forecasts for most economies” from 1.7% to 2.9%. But really, the World Bank was only echoing what every investor already knew- that the stock market rally rested on a house of cards, and that in fact the arguments in support of an economic recovery are still quite tenuous. In other words, “Some of the buying since early March was been based on a conclusion by many investors that government intervention had forestalled the threat of a doomsday scenario, such as another Great Depression…expectations were so low that stocks rose merely on news that indicators such as manufacturing activity or the service economy were shrinking less than had been feared. Investors didn’t require signs of actual growth.”
 
From trough to peak, stocks rallied 34%, pushing P/E levels back to normal levels. Now that all of the temporary pricing inefficiencies have been “corrected,” investors are taking a step back and looking to see whether the data supports further buying. Until there is solid proof that the “green shoots” are real, it’s my prediction that markets will trend either sideways or downwards.
 
What does this mean for forex markets? Investors will probably shun riskier currencies in favor of the Dollar and the Yen, which are still perceived as relative safe-havens. “Risk aversion has resurfaced as market participants take profits on riskier exposures. There are “renewed concerns about the extent of the ongoing global recession and the sustainability of the ‘green shoots’ of recovery,” said one analyst.
 
Of course, some would argue that that the emerging markets forex rally was built on a more solid foundation than US stocks. If this is the case, then perhaps the correlation between stocks and currencies will break down in the coming weeks. For now, at least, risk-averse investors will probably start to unwind carry trades and pile back into the mainstays of forex. Those with the highest interest rates will suffer the most. Until the day comes that bad economic news in the US doesn’t paradoxically buoy the Dollar, we can be certain that the current narrative is once again one of risk aversion.
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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Japanese Yen, News, US Dollar | 1 Comment »

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  1. Forex Links for the Weekend | Forex Crunch Says:

    […] Adam Kritzer dives into one of the strongest factors in the forex market: risk, and asks if risk aversion is back. […]

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