Even if one is a short-term trader, it is worth taking a look at the longer-term chart from time to time to see how things are developing in the higher time frames. My daily work has me usually focusing on daily and intraday charts, but now and again I’ll flip over to the weekly chart to gain that broader perspective. The thing I noticed today was an interesting development on the weekly USD Index chart.
As you can see below, the Bollinger Bands in that time frame have been getting progressively narrower since about the first part of the year. They are now very narrow. In fact, on a relative basis (as shown by the purple Band Width Indicator sub-plot) they are as narrow now as they got late in Q3 last year. Notice what happened then.
Since the USD Index is heavily weighted to the euro, we basically see the same narrow-Band situation for EUR/USD as we do for the index – just with the chart inverted. We see similar tight Bollinger set-ups in GBP/USD and USD/CHF, which isn’t too much of a surprise given how closely related those currencies are from a fundamental (and central bank) perspective these days.
The interesting thing, however, is that once you get outside the European currencies the story is different – considerably so in some cases. The narrow-Band situation actually produced a major breakout in USD/JPY earlier this year. Now we’re seeing the market consolidate after its powerful rally.
In the case of AUD/USD, we’ve got a market basically working through a sizeable range that’s been working since the highs were put in last year. We’re now seeing the market having turned down from its latest swing up, looking quite like it’s headed back for the bottom of the zone.
If we flip AUD/USD over we get a pretty close approximation of how USD/CAD has traded. There difference, though, is in the recent action. Where the Aussie has been selling off, the Loonie has been holding steady over the last couple of months.
So what does this all seem to say?
My interpretation would be this. The relatively better performance of the CAD vs. the AUD is indicative of at least the perception of the situations with the US and China respectively. These currencies are seen as closely linked via trade to their large neighbors, so as the US data has gotten better, the CAD has been supported, and as the China data has disappointed, the AUD has weakened.
Japan is largely its own situation. There is certainly some impact from China there, but mainly the yen trades as a function of two things. One is the stagnant economy in Japan, which is showing little sign of doing anything any time soon. The other is US interest rates. The correlation between USD/JPY and the US 10yr yields is quite strong as higher US rates make the yen more attractive as a carry trade funding currency than the dollar, plus more attractive for investment returns.
Then there’s Europe. To my mind, the ranging we’ve seen in the major pairs there is reflective of the markets getting a handle on where everything stands. We’re basically waiting on the next meaningful development. My guess at this point is that will have more to do with the US than it will Europe. I say that because the market seems to see the Eurozone issues as pretty clear with little change expected out of the ECB for a while. If anything the leaning is toward further loosening of policy by that central bank.
In the case of the US, though, the situation is on more of a knife’s edge. As we saw from the reaction to the FOMC meeting minutes Tuesday afternoon, there have been a number of market participants looking for another round of QE3 from the Fed (including the likes of Goldman Sachs). At the same time, though, we have others who see the US on a good sustained growth path. The USD is likely waiting to see which side is going to win that argument. How the USD Index moves out of its current consolidation will be indicative of which way that fight ends up going.