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Ranges hold in foreign exchange markets as holiday looms

Currency markets are caught in choppy trading conditions as selling pressure on the US dollar abates ahead of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday. Equity futures are steady, Treasury yields are up modestly on the short end, and oil prices are moving sideways as overall liquidity levels fall.

The pound is holding near a two-month high on hawkish verbal support from Bank of England policymakers, and the euro is clinging to the 1.09 threshold against the greenback as traders await new catalysts – perhaps tomorrow’s purchasing manager indices – for a move higher. Although momentum is slowing, both the Chinese yuan and Japanese yen are sitting on circa-2.5 percent gains month-to-date, with narrowing rate differentials doing most of the heavy lifting in driving relative outperformance.

Yesterday’s releases did little to shift market consensus:

Canadian consumer price growth slowed to its weakest pace since June, adding to other signs of ebbing economic momentum in helping ratify expectations for rate cuts beginning in the second quarter of 2024. With mortgage costs excluded, the year-over-year increase in the all-items index came to just 2.4 percent in October – consistent with pre-pandemic levels – and the three-month average annualized increase in underlying prices fell into the top end of the Bank of Canada’s target range. The loonie added less than 10 basis points against the big dollar.

Minutes taken during the Federal Reserve’s November meeting showed policymakers agreeing to “proceed carefully,” with the “totality of incoming information” driving rate decisions in the months ahead – a message closely aligned with prevailing expectations for a gradual pivot toward looser policy in early 2024. Moves in Treasury yields were almost imperceptible and the dollar added a few basis points relative to its major counterparts in the minutes after the release.

And the Canadian government’s economic update proved something of a damp squib, with an additional $20.8 billion in additional costs spread over a six year horizon – a technique designed to combat criticism of the Liberal record on housing affordability, while also avoiding adding to the deficit in this fiscal year. Updated projections showed the economy executing a “soft landing” in a worst-case scenario (arguably tempting fate). The exchange rate remained trapped within a 10 basis-point range, and government bond yields traded flat.

Broadly speaking, dollar bearishness looks likely to grow ahead of year end as traders reduce protection against growth and inflation tail risks – but the coming weeks could prove treacherous as weak trading volumes and still-critical data releases intersect – particularly next Thursday’s personal income and consumption print.

Please note: In observance of the US Thanksgiving holiday, no Market Brief will be published tomorrow. We trust that markets will govern themselves accordingly.

WEDNESDAY

With orders for Boeing aircraft halving from September levels, markets think durable goods orders fell at least 3 percent last month – but a slightly more attractive picture should emerge below the headline level. Consensus suggests orders with transportation excluded rose 0.2 percent in October after climbing 0.4 percent in the prior month as businesses slowed spending on plant and equipment. (08:30 EDT)

Initial jobless claims likely jumped again last week as seasonal adjustment factors played their typical role, but the four-week moving average should also show signs of emerging weakness in the labour market. (08:30 EDT)

THURSDAY

US markets are closed in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

FRIDAY

Canadian retail sales probably flatlined in September – as per Statistics Canada’s advance estimate – before falling into negative territory in October. After a remarkably long delay, households are likely beginning to turn more cautious as they are squeezed by slowing wage gains, ebbing excess savings, weakening wealth effects, and a drastic rise in borrowing costs. We expect more of the same in the coming months (excepting the typical holiday-related bacchanalia) and think dropping consumption levels will drag overall growth levels down in the new year. (08:30 EDT)

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