USD/CAD - Canadian Dollar Steady After 'Dovish' Rate Hike

CAD

The Bank of Canada finally put the market out of its misery yesterday. In line with the majority expectation, it raised rates 25bp to 1.25%. The initial reaction in FX markets was the usual mix of algorithm-driven stop-loss and stop-entry orders as the headlines flashed across the screens. Your author was watching a tick-chart of prices and in the space of less than 20 seconds, USD/CAD moved up from 1.2420 to 1.2540, down to 1.2375 and back to 1.2500.

The main points from the BoC Statement were that, “Recent data have been strong, inflation is close to target, and the economy is operating roughly at capacity. However, uncertainty surrounding the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is clouding the economic outlook.” On the domestic economy, “Consumption and residential investment have been stronger than anticipated, reflecting strong employment growth. Business investment has been increasing at a solid pace, and investment intentions remain positive. Exports have been weaker than expected although, apart from cross-border shifts in automotive production, there have been positive signs in most other categories”.

Looking forward, “consumption and residential investment are expected to contribute less to growth, given higher interest rates and new mortgage guidelines, while business investment and exports are expected to contribute more. The Bank's outlook takes into account a small benefit to Canada's economy from stronger US demand arising from recent tax changes. However, as uncertainty about the future of NAFTA is weighing increasingly on the outlook, the Bank has incorporated into its projection additional negative judgement on business investment and trade.”

The two mentions of NAFTA in the Statement and the sentence that “some continued monetary policy accommodation will likely be needed to keep the economy operating close to potential” mean we should probably characterize the BoC move as a ‘dovish hike’; hence the volatility as the headlines were released.

As the dust settles, the Canadian Dollar opens in North America this morning at USD1.2435 and GBP/CAD1.7240.

USD

Wednesday was a very fluid day for the US Dollar. Its index against a basket of major currencies tumbled to a 2018 low in Sydney of 89.93, recovered by lunchtime in Europe to 90.43 then lost half a point to another fresh low of 0.8990 in the New York afternoon before rallying 40 pips to 90.30. At times it was hard simply to keep up with the shifting price action. The volatility in FX was replicated across asset classes. A 367 point intra-day plunge in the DJIA on Tuesday was partially reversed by the close and yesterday the futures market added another 300 points to be back on a 26k handle and a fresh all-time record high. This Wednesday morning, stock index futures are indicating a flat open.

All these wild price swings across asset classes have come against a background where the US economy continues to perform very well. After last week’s higher core inflation and retail sales numbers, industrial production surged +0.9% in December as unseasonably cold weather at the end of the month boosted demand for heating. For all of 2017, industrial output rose 1.8% the first increase since 2014.

According to the Federal Reserve Beige Book released at 2pm in Washington, the US economy and inflation expanded at a modest-to-moderate pace from late November through the end of 2017, while wages continued to push higher. “Most districts said that wages increased at a modest pace… A few districts observed that firms were raising wages in a broader range of industries and positions since the previous report… Firms in some districts noted an ability to increase selling prices. Retailers in some districts reported modest price increases and there were reports of rising home prices across the country,”.

The focus today shifts to the property market with figures on housing starts and building permits. We’ll also get the Philly Fed business survey as well as the weekly jobless claims numbers. Ahead of all that, the US Dollar index opens in North America morning at 90.25 but keep an eye on US 10-year bond yields at 2.60%.