Rising oil prices and deteriorating US fundamentals vie for influence over euro-dollar exchange rates

After losing virtually all influence over the euro-dollar exchange rate since the beginning of last year, interest rate differences seem to be making a comeback, in the wake of rising oil prices. If renewed sensitivity continues, it could have a profound impact on exchange rates. If the euro-dollar exchange rate pair normalized with respect to its long-term reaction function, the economic conditions currently prevailing in the United States and Europe would imply a euro below parity with the dollar.

Until recently, however, the reaction function did not hold sway. It was weakened by structural deterioration in the outlook for the US economy, and many economists who believed in these models were caught unawares all through last year. With this in mind, let’s examine whether rising oil prices could normalize the situation and push the dollar higher, and as a corollary, the euro lower.

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The oil threat

The increased tension surrounding Syria caused the oil price to surge beyond $72 per barrel last week, and there is a significant risk of escalation that could drive prices much higher than their current levels, at least temporarily. This scenario is worrying in many respects.

Movements in oil prices have been key movers of the global economy and financial markets for the last four years, and have usually exacerbated any existing fragilities. Their collapse in 2014 was partly responsible for the increase in deflationary pressure and the subsequent monetary response from the ECB and BoJ. Then, the rebound from their January 2016 low deprived consumers of what little increase in real incomes they had seen in 2015, but without being sufficient to drive any real improvement in the situation of emerging-market exporters, which were also seeing increasing competition from the USA. The run-up in prices over the last few days could be more effective in this respect, unless, on the contrary, it sparks a crisis by causing more pain for consumers while also triggering an excessively radical jump in interest rates, which could happen quickly given the barely concealed impatience of central bank officials to escape from today’s low-interest-rate situation. That combination clearly does not bode well, since it could quickly turn into a major threat for global growth and the financial markets.

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OMB February 2018 – Our barometers of activity and inflation collapse

Our activity indicator fell into negative territory in February (-0.4), because of weaker economic indicators in all regions we cover, except for the USA. Barring investment, all components of our barometer saw declines of varying extents. Our inflation indicator fell sharply, from +1.1 in January to -0.3 in February, its lowest level since May 2017, partly due to lower oil prices.

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English summary – Commodities correction taking shape, market shake-up in view

This week’s figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) seem to have stopped traders speculating on rising prices in an overheating oil market. Lower inventories, higher production and lower US imports raised doubts about whether the current oil price is fair, after market euphoria in the last few months took it from $46 per barrel on average in June to over $71 on 25 January. The price of Brent North Sea crude, which had been wavering since the previous weekly report, gave way after Wednesday’s figures and seemed on track to end the week below $64.

Bond yields have barely responded to the move so far. However, that may not last if, as we expect, oil prices keep falling and drag metals down with them, since the rise in metals prices in the last few months has little fundamental justification.

If our scenario proves correct, that would seriously change the context, affecting inflation expectations, bond yields, the forex market and the relative performance of emerging markets and individual sectors. Overall, there is a significant risk that developments seen in the last few weeks will reverse as quickly as they occurred.

Although such adjustments could reduce the downward pressure on indexes resulting from fears that interest rates will rise too quickly, they would definitively rule out the reflation scenario that the markets have been overwhelmingly backing since mid-December. In the best-case scenario, this could stall the correction, without necessarily pushing markets back up to their recent highs.

English translation by trafine

Slightly more jobs and wages in the USA, but much more risk for the bond market

A characteristic of bubbles is that they create temporary bouts of panic, most of which are short-lived, until one day… Developments in recent days have led to concern that we might now be in that end phase: there is a risk of markets getting carried away, capable of derailing international markets that have been overly reliant on the huge amounts of liquidity lavished upon them by central banks in the last ten years.

Against that background, the January US jobs report had particular resonance. The news was not great. Job creation rose slightly to 200,000 in January from 160,000 in December but, more importantly, annual wage growth accelerated to 2.9%, its highest level since June 2009. As a result, the report has given further momentum to the correction in the US bond market.

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