The European sovereign crisis has come to resemble one of those intricate multi-faceted and fast-paced board games involving dozens of tiny odd-shaped pieces and playing cards. Of course the stakes are far higher in the Eurozone yet the reality is that each player’s move has to be carefully plotted and even after someone has indicated the end of his turn, the implications only become evident when another player perhaps unwittingly reveals a critical combination of cards and territory that sets back the ambitions of another player – friend or foe.
Euro – The single currency quickly gave up its early-riser advantage when Moody’s reminded investors that whatever illicit events go down in Athens don’t necessarily stay in Athens. The agency took an axe to the Portuguese sovereign rating slashing it by four notches and consigning it to junk status. Before Portugal can return to the capital market in order to raise further capital, Moody’s predicts it will require a further round of financial assistance from its Eurozone partners. The euro, which earlier traded at $1.4466, fell to $1.4317 as EU officials danced around the thorny issue of encouraging private creditors to Greece to rollover debt several decades in to the future without triggering a ratings event that would signal a catastrophic default. All of the game players are holding a variety of pieces, the combination of which at any given moment, if put into play, could escalate the crisis further. None of the players wants to precipitate the crisis further but is bound by their role in the game to shout out when some kind of infringement occurs.
U.S. Dollar – The dollar gained as the euro struggled to stay afloat with its index adding more than 0.5% in early morning New York trade at 75.07. The greenback is higher against all of the major trading pairs with the exception of the yen, which is also performing better than most as the risk waters turn frigid. The dollar may get a further boost mid-morning when the ISM non-manufacturing index is released. Dealers expect the diffusion index to head further towards the 50-mark indicative of neither expansion nor contraction. A late spring time lull in the economy is further evidenced by a rate of unemployment running at 9.1% and likely to be confirmed by weak payroll growth for June in a report on Friday.
Canadian dollar – Tipping high-yield and growth-sensitive stocks over the edge midweek was a third rise in Chinese interest rates for the year. The Peoples Bank waited until after-hours Wednesday to announce a 0.25% increase in deposit and lending rates effective tomorrow. The Canadian dollar didn’t take kindly to the risk-off climate and slid against the dollar to $1.0327 U.S. cents for a third day of declines.
Aussie dollar – Australian employment data will be released overnight with investors earlier getting prepared for the event by buying the Aussie sending it to as high as $1.0733 U.S. cents. However, the risk-off tone clouded by the omnipotent European debt crisis scarred the Aussie sending it to $1.0657 U.S. cents at its worst point of the morning.
British pound – The pound swung to a loss after a fairly positive start as troubles continued to brew in Brussels. The health of the British economy was once again under scrutiny this time in light of a British Retail Consortium Report that showed inflation running at a nearly three-year high. Going back three months or so such a report would have fuelled an argument that the Bank of England ought to start the monetary tightening process. Today, however, the cooler economic climate coupled with a better understanding of the source of inflationary pressures circumvents such arguments. The BRC said that retail prices rose by 2.9% compared to one-year ago, which marks the fastest pace of increase since October 2008. The underlying causes are rising commodity costs and value-added-tax increases. The pound slumped versus the dollar to $1.5986 at its lowest point of the morning.
Japanese yen – The yen rose as risk aversion grew. Local stocks rose overnight but the growing sense of fear surrounding the euro among investors as trading passed over to New York caused the yen to rally versus the dollar to a session high of ¥80.81 while against the euro it rallied to ¥115.91.