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Cliff Wachtel, CPA, is currently the Director of Market Research, New Media and Training for, a fast growing forex and CFD broker. He covers a variety of topics including global market drivers, forex, currency hedged and diversified income investing, and is currently working on a... More
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    It's a 3 way tug of war this week

    Political turmoil in the EU remains the big potential market mover and the most unpredictable wildcard in the deck this week. We've continued to insist each week that EU risk has been vastly underestimated, for example, in last month's 2012's Biggest Lie, 2013's Biggest Risk.

    1. EU Political Turmoil: Bearish A. Watch Spain/Italy Bond Yields: Best Barometer of Confidence In Spain, Italy

    Political turmoil in Spain and Italy clearly shook confidence Spain and Italy, the two largest debtor nations in the EU and thus the biggest solvency risks.

    That reduced confidence showed up in the particular metric that matters most - bond yields. These spiked higher for both Spain and Italy this week. Markets (other than the EURUSD and other EUR pairs) shrugged off the news, but the EURUSD took its biggest weekly hit in since the summer.

    As we discussed in our recent article on last week's lessons for this week, political turmoil in both nations is especially significant because the only thing keeping their bond yields down has been a questionable confidence that these nations were somehow on the mend, despite the lack of any supporting evidence. On the contrary, actual data on both shows continued contraction, even before this week's disturbing developments:

    • Spain's PM Rajoy was caught telling his second whopper of a lie since his claim last May that Spain's banking sector didn't need a bailout. See here for details.
    • Italy's former PM Berlusconi is making a serious bid to regain power, mostly by playing to populist anti-austerity sentiment, the same attitude that had bond markets virtually boycotting Italian bonds. See here for more on that.

    Ever since ECB President Draghi announced the OMT program in September, bond yields for Spain and Italy had been heading lower. As we've pointed out in past articles, ever since US elections and austerity debates stole the spotlight, numerous EU heads have declared the EU crisis over, despite the obvious fact that nothing had changed except for the dubious assurance provided by the OMT program.

    Ignore the politicians' claims about the EU crisis being over. Their talk is cheap. Bond markets are betting real money, and bond yield trends remain by far the best true indicator of confidence in a given nation's solvency risk.

    B. Watch Spain/Italy Political Headlines.
    • For Spain: Corruption Scandal Headlines. For all his faults, markets don't want to see PM Rajoy lose power at this time.
    • For Italy: Watch how Berlusconi fares in polls as Italian elections approach on the 24th/25th of February. Markets correctly view him as a poor manager of Italy's economy. If he gains in the polls, expect Italian (and possibly EU and global) asset prices to move lower and vice versa. While not expected to win, there is a real risk that he garners enough support to become a necessary part of a coalition. That could complicate efforts to make painful reforms needed to maintain market confidence and prices for Italian stocks and bonds, given Berlusconi's populist platform.
    2. US Politics Bearish A and B: US Sequestration Fight And US Retail Sales: Sequestration Fears, Payroll Tax Hike To Hurt Spending?

    One of the sharpest observations I read last week came from BofA/ML's top currency strategist David Woo. He noted the unusual divergence between the rising S&P 500 (implies optimism) and falling US consumer sentiment (implies pessimism from those who provide 70% of US GDP).

    His take: just as the positive effects of the 2011 payroll tax cut took a few months to hit consumer consciousness, so too the coming months will bring declining spending as wage earnings realize the expiration of that payroll tax cut is over and they're making less money.

    Meanwhile, he warns, the additional spending cuts from the approaching sequestration, due to start March 1st, will exacerbate the pressure on consumer spending. See here for details.

    Consumer sentiment surveys can be market moving, however, the real test is what consumers actually spend. Watch US retail sales Wednesday for the latest update on how consumers really feel.

    3. CALENDAR EVENTS: Neutral

    It's a typical mid- month medium weight calendar.

    Big themes and highlights not already discussed above include:

    Monday- Tuesday

    Bank holidays in Japan and China should limit Asian liquidity and volatility Monday and Tuesday. China's bank holiday extends through the week, and there isn't much in the way of Japanese data other than a BOJ rate statement that is not expected to show any changes. The calendar thus provides little event risk from the big Asian economies (Aussie and NZ data rarely move markets beyond their own currency pairs).


    • ECB President Draghi speaking, and the question is whether he continues to jawbone down the EUR or backtracks on his prior week remarks
    • US retail sales

    Either of these, or both, could be market moving. Draghi's remarks could easily move the EUR or markets as a whole if he continues to be downbeat about the EZ and attempt to talk down the EUR.

    US retail sales could be influential if they surprise either way. As noted above, the payroll tax hike and lingering threat of job loss from sequestration should pressure retail sales. An upside surprise, however, would feed the prevailing risk asset uptrend, and news that conforms to ongoing trends tends to get more attention and reaction than new that contradicts the ongoing trend, which remains firmly higher despite looming decade highs on so many major stock indexes like the S&P 500.


    There's a wave of preliminary GDP reports from the EU. By themselves they tend to be second tier, however if they all point in the same direction they should be influential, as a rule. What makes me hesitate is that in recent months, with the risk asset rally in place, markets have tended to focus on German results when positive, and shrug off the usual signs of deterioration elsewhere.


    G-20 meetings might provide some comments on the risks of competitive devaluations.

    US UoM consumer sentiment: Likely to be influential only if it is in-line with retail sales data from Wednesday. Sentiment is interesting, but only insofar as it predicts real consumer spending. We'll see real data for that Wednesday.

    4. Technical Picture, Observations: Strong Technical Resistance Vs. Strong Momentum: Slightly Bearish

    Most risk assets remain in firmly entrenched up trends. Note however:

    A. Divergence Between S&P 500 and EURUSD: Aberration or Red Flag?

    Most of the time, the EURUSD and major stock indexes, perhaps best represented by the S&P 500, move in the same direction, because both are bellwether risk assets.

    For a full discussion of that correlation and the definition of risk versus safe haven assets, go to my book' page, and use the "Look Inside" feature to skim through the exceptionally detailed table of contents and index. I had to fight my publisher a bit for that extra detail, and she was kind enough to make the extra investment. So take advantage of it. You can read huge chunks of the book, my treat.

    They diverged this week, with the S&P 500 index heading higher while the EURUSD made its first serious 1 week drop since this past summer, due to a combination of:

    • Political instability in the EU nations that can least afford it
    • ECB President's Draghi's successful attempt to talk down the EUR at last week.

    See here for details on these.

    The S&P is still moving higher

    (click to enlarge)


    Source: MetaQuotes Software Corp,

    05 feb 10 0853

    Meanwhile the EURUSD, has not only fallen back (no big deal by itself), more significantly, it is now sitting right back on the major 200 week EMA (violet) that it had breached just 2 weeks ago.

    (click to enlarge)


    Source: MetaQuotes Software Corp,

    06 feb 10 09 00

    The fact that it has returned to its 200 week EMA (violet) raises some doubts about whether it can hold above what had been very significant resistance and so raises doubts about its continued upward move. If it breaks back below it, that would be raise greater doubts about the EURUSD rally, because it would reaffirm the 200 week EMA (violet) line as resistance, and negate the prior break above as merely temporary.

    We're not going to get too excited about a potential reversal for risk assets yet, however, because both this EURUSD pair and the S&P 500 index still have lots of upward momentum.

    Does It Really Matter?

    We're not going to get too excited about a potential reversal for risk assets yet, however, because both this EURUSD pair and the S&P 500 index still have lots of upward momentum.

    Long term momentum on both the weekly S&P 500 chart, as well as the weekly EURUSD chart, is still strong, as shown by such compelling indicators as:

    Both remain within their double Bollinger band buy zones. See 4 RULES FOR USING THE MOST USEFUL TECHNICAL INDICATOR, DOUBLE BOLLINGER BANDS for details on using and interpreting this indicator.

    The various exponential moving averages (blue, yellow, red, violet) are all trending higher too, another sign of entrenched upward momentum.

    For those who don't already keep an eye on the EURUSD trend, consider doing so, even if you never trade currencies. A few reasons to do so include:

    • It's an excellent overall barometer of risk appetite (as is the EURJPY) that is more sensitive to global events than the major US indexes
    • The stronger its uptrend, the stronger the EUR and the weaker the USD, because these two currencies push each other in opposite directions. USD strength or weakness has wide ramifications in currency and commodity markets (as well as in stocks but to a lesser degree). I discuss these inter-market relationships between the USD and other assets in my book. At least some of that you can read for free on the book's page, using the "Look Inside" feature.
    B. Gold Weekly Chart: Decision Time Approaches

    (click to enlarge)


    04 FEB 10 0713

    Gold Looks Ready To Break Out

    The question is, in the short term, which way?


    The short term fundamentals are contradictory. Gold is primarily a fiat currency hedge. Long term the effects of debasement of the most widely held currencies make this a long term buy. Much of the hot money has already been flushed out, so further drips might not bring much new selling.

    Meanwhile, the ECB and BoJ have talked about new stimulus but done nothing. If they actually start printing soon, that could give new upward impetus to gold.

    Technical Picture

    The overall trend remains bullish, and pennant patterns like the one we see above tend to suggest continuation - for which long term trend?

    The problem here is that we've a long term downtrend dating back to July 2011 on the weekly chart shown above, sitting with a decade long uptrend, shown in the monthly chart below.

    Currently gold sits at its 50 week EMA (red), which has been strong support for over a decade, rarely breached for more than a few weeks. A decisive break below that would open the way for a test into the 1580-1550 level. However I've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that there will be plenty of buying on breaks below 1600.

    (click to enlarge)


    03 feb 10 0711

    5. Central Bank Stimulus: Bullish

    As we warned in our summary of 2013 forecasts - beware of fighting the Fed, especially when joined by the ECB, BoJ, and potentially the BoE and PBOC.

    Conclusion: Bearish Political Turmoil, Bullish Stimulus Prospects, Bearish Technical Resistance

    In sum, the likely big market movers are not coming from the calendar, but from less predictable EU and US political developments, and the weight of decade old technical resistance bumps against the upward thrust of asset price inflation from the central banks of the world's largest economies.

    Recent history suggests you don't bed against the Fed However it's going to be tough convincing most investors to open new longs given what has happened the last time major indexes were this high.

    (click to enlarge)


    Source: MetaQuotes Software Corp,

    01 feb 10 0052

    Look at that chart above. We are now at the far right side. Want to bet where that trend is headed?

    It's tough to bet against any of those. In the short term, however, politics tends to trump fundamentals. Therefore we've got:

    1. Stimulus: bullish
    2. Technical Picture: decade-old resistance (bearish) but long term upward momentum (bullish): overall we see the technical picture as more bearish, only because momentum is typically strong when indexes hit all time highs.
    3. Politics-Both EU turmoil and US sequestration: bearish but unpredictable.

    I wish I could provide a more definitive overall bullish or bearish outlook, but the evidence, as typical, is equivocal.

    Special Chance To Fight The Fed (ECB, BoJ Too): This Week Only

    Whether or not you approve of central bank stimulus for the common good, there's little doubt it's bad news for the value of anything denominated in the currencies under threat of debasement, which happen to be the ones that are most widely held, the USD, EUR, JPY and GBP.

    They say you can't fight the central banks, but here's a chance to strike a small blow that would help get investors dumping their cheapened currencies in favor of those backed my more conservative central banks.

    For that to happen, more investors need to learn about ways to diversify into better currencies and assets linked them, simpler, safer ways than generally found in guides on currency or foreign investing.

    First, if you haven't done so already, see here (North America) or here (outside of North America) for information about the most up to date guide on a wide range of conservative strategies to diversify into the currencies most likely to hold their value, and the assets linked to them. You can find a topic summary, reviews, and even read huge chunks of the book.

    Second, please take a moment (about 120 seconds, actually) and cast your vote for "The Sensible Guide to Forex" in's Awards 2013 in BEST NEW BOOK category. The link to the survey is here.

    A win might help draw some additional attention, and help others hear about how they can be liberated from the ongoing financial repression.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Feb 10 4:44 AM | Link | Comment!

    Here's a quick rundown of the EURUSD's prospects over the coming weeks as of the December 30, 2012.


    The ongoing deadlock hit Western stock indexes this week, including the bellwether S&P 500, as discussed here. This political paralysis also suggests another coming threat to risk currency pairs like the EURUSD. In the coming weeks Washington must once again either raise the debt ceiling or cut debt.

    The ongoing political dysfunction suggests that Washington's credibility, and credit rating, could suffer as much damage as it did during the prior debt ceiling battle in the summer of 2011. That one cost the US its AAA credit rating from the S&P and took the S&P 500 index down almost to almost 400 points below its current level.


    The coming week brings a batch of EU and US data, as discussed here. The overall tone of data has not been good, and so is more likely to favor risk aversion and the USD. Until the fiscal cliff, and coming US debt ceiling battle are resolved without major US austerity, the economic calendar is unlikely to produce anything positive enough to keep the pair moving past upcoming resistance discussed below.


    The weekly EURUSD chart below continues to show upward momentum in recent weeks.

    ScreenHunter_04 Dec. 30 04.28


    Source: MetaQuotes Software Corp,

    04 DEC 30 0428

    Signs of continued upward momentum include:

    • The 10 week EMA (blue) and 20 week EMA (yellow) are both close to crossing above the 50 week EMA (red)

    So why do I see the overall technical picture as mixed?

    Approaching strong resistance from the 200 week EMA between 1.33 and 1.34 (granted, there is still over 100 pips of headroom, enough room for short term longs, though).

    The S&P 500, our preferred risk appetite barometer, has turned lower, creating a negative divergence. The EURUSD's rally since the middle of November has been in sync with risk appetite as represented by the S&P 500. We don't think the pair can sustain a rally while the index is falling.


    Market calm on the fiscal cliff is starting to unravel. Until we have a deal, particularly one that defers most of the fiscal cliff's austerity, it's unlikely that the pair can overcome the approaching resistance. Given its recent strong run higher, the pair is due for a break until it gets some help from US fiscal cliff news.

    Given that major risk barometers like the S&P 500 still near long term highs, already pricing in a US fiscal cliff deal and quiet in the EU, any resolution of the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling may well yield little more than a brief relief rally, if not a sell-the-news pullback.

    With global economic growth expected to be weak for at least the first half of 2013 and no real repair of the EU debt situation, what's left to drive the pair much higher?

    Oh, right, yet more stimulus, debt, and money printing.

    As long term stores of value, neither the EUR or USD inspires great confidence given that both the Fed and ECB are committed to open ended money printing. That means these currencies will depreciate relative to better managed currencies and hard assets, especially as the global economy recovers.

    If most of your assets are denominated in the EUR, USD, JPY, or other currency subject to similar central bank policies, you need to diversify your currency exposure just as you would diversify by asset class and sector.

    There are currency diversification solutions to fit most needs. The problem for most people has been finding them. Specifically:

    • Most forex guides focus on trading styles that are too risky and demanding for most people.
    • Most foreign investing guides focus on the fundamentals of a given recommended asset without giving enough consideration to the currency to which they're linked.

    I've tried to provide a variety of solutions that avoid these problems in my book, The Sensible Guide To Forex (Wiley & Sons, 2012). See here or here for details.


    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Dec 31 11:04 AM | Link | Comment!

    Part 2: Coming Week Market Movers

    The following is Part 2 of our weekly review and preview strategy guide for traders and investors of all major asset classes and global markets - see Part 1 for prior week market review

    1. Fiscal Cliff: Weekly Bias - Neutral To Negative

    Fiscal cliff news remains the most likely market driver this week, assuming no major surprises related to the EU debt crisis. That's because the fiscal cliff is 'only' a recession threat. The EU crisis is an economic and market collapse threat.

    Given that there is still time before yearend, the likelihood is for more of the same brinksmanship and haggling that has characterized past deficit and budget negotiations, just like last week. Last week's tight trading ranges and low volatility suggest that markets anticipate a deal that does not radically deviate from the current situation; most of the pain is expected to be deferred yet again with only minor headwinds to growth from new taxes or spending cuts. In sum, that mean US economic prospects don't change much except that the uncertainty of the outcome is removed.

    That's likely good for a short term relief rally, no more. The uncertainty is gone, but the reality is not markedly improved. Instead, it's likely to bring, to some degree, higher taxes and spending cuts.

    That said, unless there's conclusive news good or bad (a deal is all but done or lost), this is likely to be a less prominent driver this week because there will be a lot more competition for attention this week, see below for details.

    2-3. EU: Weekly Bias - Neutral To Negative

    There are two kinds of EU data to watch this week and beyond

    Default Threat Related News

    While there is plenty of scheduled event risk (see EU calendar events below) from the EU, the only really potent market moving events from the EU would be those that change sentiment about near term default and contagion threats, most likely involving Greece or Spain. The related near term risks for next week and beyond from Greece and Spain include:

    • Greece: The EZ's bond buyback scheme fails, which would cause the IMF, Finland, and Holland to withdraw their share of the 44 bln EUR transfer to Greece (or more accurately, banks holding maturing Greek bonds). The buyback is supposed to be completed by December 13, when EU finance ministers plan to release their share of the cash. Any news related to the bond buyback could thus move markets up or down.
    • Spain: Spain has a 10 year bond auction this week. Thus far the mere potential of unlimited ECB purchases of Spain bonds has kept Spain's borrowing costs falling. However as we noted in a few weeks ago in CRASH ALERT: A TOXIC MIX OF EVENTS HEADING INTO 2013, Spain needs to sell over 20 bln EUR before the end of January. Anything that spikes risk aversion, and thus Spain bond yields, could force Spain into needing the OMT activated fast. However that may not be possible because conditions for receiving this aid have yet to be settled. That means there's a danger of a sudden crisis and need for a last minute deal. Given the stakes, such a deal is likely, but not before markets get a good scare.

    In the EU, as in the US, there's little upside from the good news except for a brief pop higher in risk appetite, and lots of downside potential from the eventual, still looming defaults and contagion risks.

    EU Calendar Events: Bias Neutral To Negative

    These include:

    • Spanish and Italian manufacturing and services PMIs
    • Spanish and French 10 year bond auctions
    • ECB and BOE monthly rate statements and press conferences
    • German factory orders and industrial production

    Most expect data to continue to show contraction in the EU, and last week ECB President Draghi's relatively bullish view conceded there was no upturn in sight before the second half of 2013. So beware of any hyped about reports beating expectations. Remember, PMIs below 50 still indicate contraction.

    Here too, the best case result is "not as bad as feared."

    4-5. US Events Monthly Jobs Reports (NFP and Unemployment) & Related Reports

    Consensus is for about 91k jobs versus the 171k new jobs added last time. While anything over 110k would be heralded as a major victory, keep perspective.

    The US needs 200k new jobs just to keep up with new entrants each month, before it can even begin to reduce the real number of unemployed

    The consensus figure that would meet expectations represents a 47% drop from last month's 171k, which was still less than what's needed. How markets will react will likely depend greatly on how much the result is seen as a one-time Hurricane Sandy aberration and thus not indicative of future reports.

    Thus we assign no positive or negative bias at this time as the outcome and market reaction is too unclear.

    As always market will be watching the following reports for hints of the Friday results:

    • Monday: ISM manufacturing PMI
    • Wednesday: ADP Non farm report. ADP claims to have improved its accuracy in predicting the BLS figure in recent months. This same day also brings the ISM non-manufacturing report (especially its jobs component, the most accurate single predictor of the final BLS NFP figure)
    • Thursday: Challenger-Grey job cuts

    Also on Friday there are reports on hourly earnings that shed additional light on what US consumers are earning, and so what they might spend, which comprises ~70% of US GDP.

    UoM Consumer Sentiment

    For the world's largest economy, consumer spending is the largest component of GDP. This report takes on added weight because the US is now in the middle of its peak consumer spending period, and it will influence sentiment about spending and, and everything related to it, including GDP.

    6. Central Bank Monthly Rate Statements and Press Conferences: Bias Neutral

    This week from Tuesday to Thursday we've got them for from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and ECB. The rate statements themselves rarely surprise, but the press conferences are potential sources for changing market outlook on the size and pace of interest rate changes (if anything, mostly rate cuts as central banks seek to soften the effects of the global slowdown).

    7. Other Calendar Events

    Monday: Australian retail sales, South Korea manufacturing PMI (considered a bellwether PMI for Asian manufacturing), UK manufacturing PMI.

    Wednesday: Australian GDP, UK services PMI, Spain 10 year bond sale

    Thursday: Australian monthly jobs reports

    Friday: Australia trade balance (like much of Aussie data, is significant also because it's a gauge of China business activity), UK manufacturing production.

    8. Technical Picture: Uptrend Hitting Strong Resistance

    Using the S&P 500 as our barometer for risk assets, we see that the multi week and multi-month trend remains firmly upward, despite the negative fundamentals noted above.

    ScreenHunter_01 Dec. 01 22.01


    Source: MetaQuotes Software Corp,

    01dec 012201

    We also note that the index is currently butting up against three layers of resistance:

    • The psychologically important 1400 level
    • Both its 50 and 100 day moving averages
    • Its 38.2% Fibonacci retracement level at ~1430 of the June - August 2012 rally

    In sum, the chart tells us we've an established uptrend, but it has yet to break through the current 1400 -1430 major resistance level.


    Overall, the market movers for the coming week, and those that continue to exert influence beyond this week, have potential for sparking at best a limited short term rally, and at worst a nasty correction that at some point risks outright contagion. I refer in particular to:

    • Fiscal Cliff: The most pro-market outcome possible would be more kick-the-can, extend/pretend - that there are no changes from our current status. All tax breaks remain in effect, all planned spending cuts are deferred. This outcome would at best generate a brief relief rally, but soon all realize that the only improvement is the removal of short term uncertainty. The worst case scenario is that all tax hikes and spending cuts hit and the US takes a ~4% GDP hit, with predictable knock-on effects for the global economy, etc.
    • EU: The same goes for the EU - the most pro market response hoped for is defer the pain, prevent inevitable defaults.

    These two big issues both ultimately mean continued unprecedented money printing and ultimate currency debasement as governments make desperate attempts to stave off disaster.

    It's debatable whether these policies serve the greater good.

    What is clear is that they will sabotage wealth building for anyone based in the USD, EUR, JPY, or other currencies subject to financial repression regimes. So it's critical for all to increase exposure to the better managed currencies. For guidance on simpler, safer ways to do that than generally practiced in forex trading or international investing, just enter "The Sensible Guide To Forex" into your browser. It's the only forex book extant designed for conservative, risk averse investors or traders.

    9. Guess Who Else Feels Pessimistic? The True 1%

    The ones who control $5.6 trillion aren't feeling optimistic. They've parked that money in low yield, limited access savings accounts at commercial banks. As zerohedge reports,

    As the chart below shows, rapid, dramatic shifts, characterized by massive inflows of cash into such savings accounts usually coincide with times of great monetary stress: the three biggest episodes in history to date have been the 2008 Lehman failure, the August 2011 Debt Ceiling Crisis and associated US downgrade, and the May 2009 First Greek failure and bailout.

    ScreenHunter_02 Dec. 02 04.20

    02 dec 02 0420

    The largest ever weekly inflow, ~ $132 billion, occurred just 2 weeks ago.

    Do these insiders know something we don't?


    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Dec 02 12:36 AM | Link | Comment!
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