Dollar A Little Firmer As China's Troubles Shrugged Off, FOMC Minutes Approach

Fundamental risk for the dollar keeps growing as NFPs Friday approaches. Before the concentrated dose of economic data hits the wires at the end of the week though, traders will have to wade through this afternoon?s FOMC minutes and tomorrow?s notable calendar highlights.

By mid-session in the US, the dollar had added some distance to Tuesday?s retracement. EURUSD slowly pulled up to 1.34 support that has held up the floor on price action for nearly a week. Speeding up its own greenback move, GBPUSD dropped nearly 100 points from overnight highs to stall just around 1.9730. The bid tone didn?t resonate too loudly in USDCHF as the pair ranged between 1.2240 and 1.2280. Finally, the Japanese yen looks like it may buckle to the dollar?s resiliency. USDJPY made a swing just short of the 122.80 key resistance level before making a shallow swing down to 122.40 to relieve some of the pressure from the pair.
Though the US had more than its fair share of event risk penciled into today?s docket, traders the world over were already preoccupied. The market was eagerly awaiting the open of capital markets in China to see how investors would react to the government?s decision to triple the stamp tax on stocks to 0.3 percent. The Chinese markets certainly saw fireworks after incorporating the new policy. The Shanghai SE Composite dropped 6.5 percent, the most in three months. However, the fear didn?t spread beyond the superpower?s boarders. Equities markets across the rest of Asia and in Europe produced only moderate declines while the carry trade went virtually unscathed. This was exactly the opposite situation to the ripple effect on February 27th when the Chinese government announced it would crack down on personal loans that were being used for speculation in the stock market. In the wake of that statement, risky investments the world over plunged. This time around though, there was a clear disconnect. While it is difficult to pin point the specific reason why the sell off didn?t span the world, there are a few factors to take into account. First of all, volatility the world over is extremely low and big traders who have leveraged themselves into risky assets to produce respectable returns will be skeptical about falling for another China-led selloff. Also, market participants and analysts have become accustomed to China?s efforts to curb speculation and growth in its stock market. And, compared to previous efforts, the raise in the stamp tax is a pittance. Though the reaction has been quiet so far, the threat of follow through in China or an exogenous accelerant could quickly change the scene; so the market will remain vigilant and perhaps jittery.
Turning the focus back on the US calendar, there were a few indicators and events to take note of - especially with many of the majors hovering just below dollar-based resistance. In the morning, the markets were responding to housing and employment data. The weekly MBA report revealed a 7.3 percent drop in mortgage applications for the week ending May 25th. The drop was the biggest in four months and was brought on by lending rates that have recently reached seven month highs. Guiding NFP speculation, the ADP private payrolls figure for May has lowered expectations for an upside surprise. Crossing the wires at 97,000, well below the 120,000 expected, the indicator tarnished the impressive drop in initial jobless claims and pick up in the employment component of yesterday?s consumer sentiment survey. Altogether though, these indicators had limited influence on price action. Traders are holding off on their big trades until after the FOMC minutes from the May 9th meeting. In the brief statement that followed the decision, the only substantial change to the boiler plate text was a mention that ‘growth slowed in the first part of this year.?
US equities, like those in Europe and most of Asia, dipped on the open Wednesday morning; but limited its losses as local fundamentals came back into play. By 15:00 GMT, the NASDAQ was still sitting on the biggest decline with a 0.31 percent contraction to 2,564.15. At the same time, the Dow made a considerable bounce as it was down only 0.19 percent at 13,495.01 and the S&P 500 was light only 0.13 percent at 1,516.16. As the Chinese market?s decline blacked out all the market headlines, a few top movers in the US went relatively overlooked. Dow component and tech bellwether IBM was only 0.2 percent higher at $106.10 despite the firm?s admission to the WSJ that it had accelerated its $12.5 billion stock buy-back plan. Elsewhere, in corporate news, book purveyor Borders saw its shares drop 3.6 percent to $22.48 after reporting a first quarter loss that nearly doubled last year?s number.
For treasuries, the morning?s economic releases and the risk hiccup in China didn?t amount to much movement in yields. The benchmark note was quoted 5/32nds above the open at 97-05 with a yield off 2 basis points at 4.861 by 15:00 GMT. The thirty-year bond was up 9/32nds at 96-06 while its own yield slid 2 basis points to 4.997.