Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

August 13th 2010

Safe Haven Trade Returns

I shouldn’t have been so complacent in declaring the paradigm shift in forex markets, whereby risk aversion had given way to comparative growth and interest rate differentials. While such a shift might have been present – or even dominant – in forex markets over the last couple months, it appears to have once again been superseded by the so-called safe haven trade.

In hindsight, it wasn’t that the interplay between risk appetite and risk aversion had ceased to guide the forex markets, but rather that they had been deliberately been put on the backburner. In other words, it’s now obvious that investors have remained vigilant towards the possibility of another crisis and/or an increase in risk/volatility.

How do I know this is the case? This week, there was a major correction in the markets, as diminished growth prospects for the global economy led stocks down, and bonds and the Dollar up. If investors were truly focused on growth differentials, the Dollar would have declined, due to a poor prognosis for the US economy. Instead, investors bought the Dollar and the Yen because of their safe-haven appeal.

EUR-USD Versus S&P 500

What exactly was it that produced such a backlash in the markets, sending both the DJIA and the Euro down by 2% apiece in less than one trading session? First, the most recent jobs report confirmed that unemployment is not falling. Then, the Commerce Department released trade data which showed that the recovery in US exports has already leveled off. This sent economists scrambling to adjust their forecasts for 2010 GDP growth: “After downward revisions to other economic data like inventories and the export figures, even that 2.4 percent annual rate is now looking too rosy — and may even be as low as 1 percent.”

To top it all off, the meeting of the Fed Reserve Bank confirmed investors’ worst fears as the Fed warned of continued economic weakness and voted to further entrench its quantitative easing program. According to the official FOMC statement: “The pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months. Household spending is increasing gradually, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit…Bank lending has continued to contract….the pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated.”

The Fed also indicated slowing inflation, which set off a debate among economists about the once-unthinkable prospect of defaltion. While the consensus is that deflation remains unlikely, investors are no longer automatically inclined to give the Fed the benefit of the doubt: “The Fed’s determined effort to build up its inflation-fighting credibility over the past few decades may be working against it here.”

It was no wonder that the markets reacted the way they did! Cautious optimism has now given way to unbridled pessimism: “Given the uneven rebound in the United States, and now signs that the world’s other economic engines are slowing, economists say Americans may confront high unemployment and lackluster growth for some time to come.” Ironically, if such an outcome were to obtain, it could provide a boost for the Dollar, and even for the Yen.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Economic Indicators, News, US Dollar | 1 Comment »

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One Review of “Safe Haven Trade Returns”

  1. Yohay Says:

    Great analysis. Indeed, Bernanke’s move rocked the markets and made the dollar and the yen attractive. Now, the markets calmed down. Do you think we’ll see another storm before the next NFP?

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