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More Questions Than Answers On The Russia-ukraine Tensions

USD - US Dollar

This week has not given enough indications that Russia-Ukraine tensions are heading towards a de-escalation, as US authorities have continued to doubt Moscow’s claims around a troop withdrawal while Ukrainian forces and Russian separatists have repeatedly accused each other of violating a cease-fire. There is a very high probability that we’ll get into the weekend with a still very blurry picture on geopolitical tensions, with next week’s meeting between the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov now perceived as the pivotal event in the Ukraine saga. We think lingering uncertainty around current diplomatic developments should help put a floor under the dollar as safe-haven demand is unlikely to dissipate in the very near term. 

When it comes to the second big driver for the dollar – Fed rate expectations – we’ll hear from several Fed speakers today. Any sign from today’s speakers that they would also favour faster tightening could see markets go back to speculating on a 50bp March hike, a prospect that has been partially and gradually priced out in the past few days.  Expect the greenback to remain supported.  

CAD - Canadian Dollar

The CAD nudged marginally firmer yesterday after the higher than expected CPI report earlier this week but the negative pull from weaker crude and broader market uncertainty remains strong. The inflation report reinforces the outlook for a 25bps hike but it was perhaps not the “smoking gun” that bolsters the case for a 1/2 point move in March. BoC DG Lane echoed comments from Governor Macklem that policy makers would be “nimble” in implementing policy changes and said the Bank would be “forceful” if necessary which also suggests no rush to tighten rates aggressively at this point. The CAD seems set to remain within its established 1.2650/1.28 range for now. 

EUR - Euro

EUR/USD volatility has dropped significantly since yesterday morning, with the current tight trading range (1.1350-80) factoring in some modest degree of geopolitical risk (which is preventing a decisive break above 1.1400) and the market’s reluctance to fully price out expectations on ECB tightening this summer preventing a fall below 1.1300. These conflicting forces may continue to keep the pair around current levels into the weekend, with the eurozone’s consumer confidence data later today unlikely to generate much reaction in FX. 

GBP - British Pound

As expected, UK retail sales (data released this morning) rebounded fiercely in January, as the Omicron-induced slump dissipated. This is yet another indication of how the British economy has started the year with some good momentum, which is ultimately keeping the market comfortable with its aggressive pricing for Bank of England tightening. GBP/USD broke above 1.3600 yesterday likely on the back of the recent positive data flow and solid BoE rate hike expectations, while the pound also appears relatively less exposed than other European currencies to the adverse swings in geopolitical sentiment. GBP/USD should hold above 1.3600 today. 


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