FX: Getting a Sugar High from Talk of Stimulus?

Investors are dipping their toes back into US assets. Stocks traded higher for the third day in a row, Treasury yields rebounded off their lows and the greenback started the week stronger against all of the major currencies. These moves had nothing to do with data as there are no major US economic reports on the calendar this week. Instead currencies continue to be driven by headline risk and the prospect of fiscal and monetary easing. For the US in particular, there’s talk that the White House is considering a payroll tax cut to stimulate the economy. We know that President Trump is not satisfied with the extent of interest rates cuts so if the Federal Reserve continues to under deliver his only option will be fiscal stimulus. A payroll tax cut would be cheered by the markets, US business and consumers but it needs to be approved by Congress and the Democratic controlled House will be reluctant to back it because payroll taxes fund Social Security, a program they are actively looking to expand. Yet the mere talk of stimulus is enough to give investors a sugar high particularly since the US is not the only country talking about more fiscal stimulus.
 
As noted by our colleague Boris Schlossberg, “German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Sunday, that Berlin could make available up to 50 billion euros of extra spending in case of a slowdown. While the figure is relatively modest, it is the first sign that the notoriously frugal German policymakers are finally starting to understand the need for action as Europe’s largest economy is coming dangerously close to tipping into a recession.” This provided initial support to the euro but by the end of the NY session, the currency turned lower and extended its slide for the fifth day in a row. With the ECB expected to increase stimulus next month and this week’s PMI numbers likely to be weak, the risk is to the downside for EUR/USD. Support is at the August low of 1.1027 but the key level to watch is 1.10.
 
The tone of trading tomorrow will most likely be determined by China, who will announce the details of their new Loan Prime Rate program at 9:30am local time (9:30pm NY). The new fluctuating LPR replaces their existing fixed benchmark lending rate and is updated the 20th of every month. By allowing the rate to float, they are basically allowing interest rates to fall. The current fixed rate sits at 4.35% and hasn’t changed in nearly 4 years. When the new program launches tonight, the rate will be set lower and could continue to fall. The lower the rate, the more positive the reaction in the market. Aside from this rate cut, investors are also waiting for fiscal stimulus from China.
 
Keep an eye on the Australian and New Zealand dollars as they will be most sensitive to China’s announcements. The minutes from the last Reserve Bank of Australia meeting is also scheduled for release along with New Zealand’s dairy auction. When the RBA met, they downplayed the need for additional easing by talking up the strength of the labor market. AUD is weak so if the minutes are more dovish, the currency could tumble on expectations for another rate cut this year.