This week the public received startling news: on Wednesday morning, month-over-month CPI (a proxy for inflation) in the United States had unexpectedly remained static, clocking in at 0% whereas a moderate 0.2% increase had been forecast. Core CPI (which excludes food and energy prices) likewise came in lower than anticipated at 0.3% month-over-month, while Thursday saw the Producer Price Index surprisingly decline 0.5% month-over-month. This prompted a mass selloff of USD across major pairs on Wednesday and Thursday, with the US Dollar Index (DXY) temporarily plummeting by 1.8% from the start of the week while stock indices soared. While demand for USD has recovered a bit since, with the DXY now down only 0.87% from Sunday, it is worth asking: has everything changed for major pairs?
Argument A: The Bearish Case for USD
A 0% month-over-month inflation rate may signal that the worst of price increases is finally over in the US. Annual inflation might have peaked, and consumers can breathe a sigh of relief now that three key events have occurred: 1) energy prices have dropped significantly due to a dip in demand, while US natural gas storage and oil barrel inventories also exceed expectations. 2) The Federal Reserve has embraced monetary policy hawkishness, and their rapid 50-75 bp rate hikes have worked, successfully restricting borrowing and thus curbing demand. 3) Despite a tight labor market, the US unemployment rate consistently hovers around 3.5%, granting a subtle degree of price stability.
Argument B: The Bullish Case for USD
Unfortunately, despite 0% month-over-month inflation being a welcome respite from high inflation, this one piece of data does not capture the full economic picture. Here are three reasons to expect high inflation to continue in the US: 1) though having fallen, energy prices could likely remain volatile and high because underlying global energy supply problems (e.g., mutual sanctions on Russian exports, OPEC’s unreliable output, energy dependence) have not been resolved. 2) Considering the scale of monetary stimulus over the course of the pandemic, and the double-digit federal funds rate that was historically implemented to stamp out high inflation, it would be shocking if these past few rate hikes were enough for the Fed to bring 40-year highs to an end. 3) The hot labor market may cause wages to further play catch-up, contributing to core inflation.
My Bias: Bullish (With a Grain of Salt)
Despite this particular cooling CPI report, I am retaining my bullish bias on USD, though admittedly with less confidence than before. The international and domestic economic conditions at work do not appear to have changed in a significant fashion as consumers still grapple with the consequences of an unprecedented money supply, labor shortages, and energy instability. However, if US inflation data continues to fall behind market expectations, I will certainly reassess this bias.
Best Pairs to Trade
According to the EdgeFinder, A1 Trading’s market scanner that helps traders conduct economic and sentiment analysis, here are two optimal pairs to trade for USD bulls: 1) GBP/USD, which has a score of -7, earning a ‘strong sell’ signal; and 2) USD/TRY, which has a score of 4, earning a ‘buy’ signal.
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