I've a got a little question for you. What phenomenon causes investors to buy safe haven assets and ditch higher-yielding ones? I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with "schmisk schmaversion." If you answered "risk aversion," then you deserve a treat, my friend!
Unfortunately, I don't have one for you right now, but you should find consolation in the fact that you know exactly what's been going on in the markets lately!
Yes, risk aversion, which has been described as a bane to bulls and a boon to bears (what a tongue-twister!), is back with a vengeance. Just this week we saw it rear its ugly head again, dealing blows to markets left and right.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 279 points earlier this week and dropped 2.2% on Wednesday alone, while the S&P slipped 2.28%. Halfway around the world, Japan's Nikkei wasn't spared from the selloff as it lost 1.66% as well.
Forex markets were no different either. Over the past couple of days, we saw GBP/USD and EUR/USD practically fall off the charts! EUR/JPY, considered by many as a barometer of risk, also dropped massive pippage on Wednesday after it rallied higher to start the week.
So who flipped the risk sentiment switch?
I hate to point fingers, but something tells me the U.S. had a hand in the loss of risk appetite. As the world's superpower, its performance is crucial to the global recovery, but it didn't exactly post impressive numbers this week. Actually, this is the main reason why we saw markets plummet on Wednesday.
The U.S.'s ADP non-farm employment change report set the tone for risk aversion when it revealed that only 38,000 jobs were added in May, a far cry from the 177,000 increase that was expected. The ISM manufacturing PMI then magnified the downbeat mood when it shaved almost 7 points off the previous reading of 60.4!
Sadly, the U.S. isn't the only one sinking at the moment. This past week, other countries have been hit with poor economic data.
The U.K. continued its string of discouraging economic releases as this week's manufacturing PMI report failed to hit market expectations of a 54.2 figure, coming in at 52.1. This marked the third consecutive month that the index didn't please the markets.
Meanwhile, German retail sales growth was just disappointing as it was expected to show that sales were up 1.7%, but instead grew by just 0.6%. In addition to that, the previous month showed a revision of 2.7%, indicating some weakness in the German economy. If the German economy ain't there to pick up the slack for the rest of the euro zone, then the region may just suffer more setbacks down the road.
Halfway around the globe, Asia has also taken a hit. It's almost a foregone conclusion that Japan will reenter a recessionary phase this year, while Australia's latest GDP figures showed a decline of 1.2% last quarter. Sad to say, with both countries still reeling from the effects of their respective natural disasters, the short-term future doesn't look too bright for these two nations.
All this poor data seems to have pushed the forex market in the direction of the safe haven currencies.
Currently, the U.S. dollar index is sitting right smack on the 50.0% Fib level. After rising a few weeks back on European sovereign debt fears, the USDX has pulled back and is sitting right smack at the 50.0% Fib level. Don't be surprised if we see a dollar rally soon!
The franc has been the big winner this week and quite frankly, I ain't surprised given its unique position. Heck, even the yen has rallied this week after getting put on downgrade watch earlier this week!
If the trend of disappointing data continues, it may lead to fears that a double dip recession is just around the corner. If risk aversion is indeed here to stay, look for these three currencies to run roughshod on the rest of the majors!
Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.