US Open Note – Market sentiment freezes, dollar largely unchanged

Markets digest US jobless claims and Philly manufacturing

The US stock futures correction deepened as risk sentiment has remained negative, while the 10-year yield at 1.88% seems to be keeping the dollar buoyant. It appears the hawkish tone from the Fed has saturated markets and they have become less sensitive lately.

The US economy is nearing full employment and today’s rise in jobless claims has managed to only nudge the dollar index slightly lower, stabilizing around the 95.40 level. The United States saw an increase of 55 k in new claims for unemployment benefits to 286 k in the week that ended January 15, rising off the previous period at 230 k. It was the largest weekly increase since mid-July after the Omicron variant hindered employers from retaining workers.

On another note, the factory activity in Philadelphia beat January 2022 forecasts of 18.9, coming in at 23.2 and improving from a one-year low of 15.4 in December 2021. The resulting optimism from firms for growth over the next six months remains positive.

The yen has not capitalized on the muted strength in the dollar, whose recent pullback from 116.40 per dollar is hovering around 114.25 per dollar mark, while gold is currently flat around $1,840/oz - after yesterday’s rally from $1,817.

ECB messages versus stronger sterling

The euro remains sluggish around $1.1340, back to levels of the Asian session. The ECB policymakers’ rhetoric regarding recent inflation, was that it is supposedly attributed to temporary factors that are assumed would lessen in 2022. Nonetheless, should elevated inflationary levels for an extended period haunt the eurozone, the ECB will likely have to take appropriate action. That said, the ECB echoed that the net purchases under the PEPP program may be decreased and may end by the end of March but balanced this, with the fact that monetary support remained a necessity, dampening expectations of a rate hike this year.

The pound is faring better against the greenback and the euro and has mended the one-and-a-half base point damage over the last week against the reserve currency. It has formed traction off the $1.3600 handle after minor weakness in the greenback unfolded due to the rise in jobless claims. EURGBP is firm around 0.8330 but maintains a negative bias.

Employment fires up down under

Australia is faring well at the start of 2022 with its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate falling to 4.2% in December 2021, down from 4.6% a month earlier, recording the lowest number since August 2008 as the lockdowns were removed. More jobs were created in Australia during December, increasing employment by 64.8 k to a fresh record of 13.24 million, overshooting market forecasts of a 43.3 k rise. This occurred even though the participation rate missed the December estimate by a fraction, remaining pat with the previous month at an elevated 66.1%, as monthly hours worked in jobs increased by 1%.

The aussie is creeping higher, currently at $0.7240, keeping the ascent from 0.7000 active. Although the Reserve Bank of Australia has claimed that they are unlikely to move ahead with hikes until 2023, a stronger economy has markets now pricing in a 70% chance by May for rate lift-off. Furthermore, markets are expecting the RBA to somewhat update its forward guidance in May’s meeting to acknowledge that an earlier hike could be on the cards, while the RBA will have to review its QE policy in its February meeting.

Oil and loonie momentum dry up

WTI futures have consolidated around $85.55 per barrel level, while strength in the Canadian dollar has paused with the dollar/loonie pair flatlining slightly below the C$1.2500 barrier.

At 15:00 GMT, US existing home sales are due, while natural gas storage and crude oil inventories will follow at 15:30 and 16:00 GMT respectively.

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