EUR/USD: Dollar Strengthening Prospects Increase
Throughout January, a series of indicators: GDP, employment, and retail sales, consistently highlighted the strength of the US economy. The threat of recession diminished, and it became evident that the high interest rate did not significantly hinder economic performance. Market participants were keenly awaiting the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the US Federal Reserve, scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, against the backdrop of these positive economic indicators.
As anticipated, the regulator maintained the key rate at its current level (5.50%) but shifted its rhetoric to indicate that its next move would likely be to ease monetary policy. The question on everyone’s mind was: when? During the press conference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell sought to temper expectations. He stated that FOMC members wanted to be 100% certain of victory over inflation and that they would not rush into a dovish pivot until convincing evidence of inflation falling below the 2.0% target was seen. Fortunately, the strong economy permits this cautious approach. However, Powell acknowledged that should there be a sharp cooling in the labour market, the easing of monetary policy could occur quite swiftly.
It should be noted that throughout the latter half of January, Fed officials made concerted efforts to temper expectations of a rate cut starting as early as March. And it must be said, they succeeded. The probability of a policy reversal in March dropped from a peak of 90% to 35.5%, while the likelihood of a rate cut in May increased to 61%.
The market’s reaction to the outcome of the FOMC meeting was rather muted. The DXY dollar index failed to reach 104.00, and EUR/USD, having dropped to 1.0800 on February 1, reversed direction and climbed back to 1.0900 by Friday, in anticipation of the release of data on the state of the American labour market.
The data published on February 2 revealed that the number of new jobs in the US non-farm sector (Non-Farm Payrolls) increased by 353,000 in January, far exceeding the expected 180,000. This followed a December increase of 333,000. Unemployment remained stable at 3.7%, while wage inflation rose to 4.5% on an annual basis, significantly surpassing market expectations of 4.1%. Thus, Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s concerns about a sharp cooling of the labour market were unfounded, which clearly benefited the American currency.
Let’s recall that a week earlier, on January 25, the European Central Bank (ECB) held a meeting where the regulator also left the key interest rate unchanged at 4.50%. During the press conference following the meeting, ECB President Christine Lagarde refrained from commenting on the possible timing of rate cuts. According to her, the Governing Council members believe it is too early to discuss easing monetary policy. However, many market participants think that economic challenges may prompt the ECB to initiate this process first. A comparison of macroeconomic indicators between the Old and the New World is enough to support this view.
The unemployment rate in the Eurozone stands at 6.4% compared to 3.7% in the US. European GDP barely moved from a recessionary negative level of -0.1% to 0% in Q4, while the US saw a growth of +3.3%. Moreover, inflation in the Eurozone is close to the target of 2.0%, currently at 2.9%, compared to 3.4% in the US. All these indicators could prompt the European Central Bank to begin easing monetary policy soon. Furthermore, ECB Vice President Francois Villeroy de Galhau recently stated that the rate could be reduced at any moment. Many market participants interpreted this as a signal that a dovish trend might begin within the next two months.
However, analysts at Commerzbank believe that an initial rate cut in March or April might not occur. They note that one negative factor for the euro persists. The bank’s strategists think that there is a significant faction within the ECB Governing Council that is merely biding time, to then seize the first opportunity to advocate for a rate cut. “This may even be too soon,” Commerzbank warns.
Economists at another bank, the British HSBC, expect the dollar to strengthen slightly in the medium term, especially against the euro and the pound. This is attributed to the continued outperformance of the US economy compared to many other G10 countries, allowing the Federal Reserve to delay easing its policy. “A less aggressive easing path could lead to a decrease in risk appetite, which would support the US dollar,” HSBC specialists write.
EUR/USD closed the week at 1.0787. At present, 30% of experts have voted for the dollar to strengthen in the near future, anticipating further decline in the pair. An equal percentage sided with the euro, believing that the pair will at least remain within the 1.0800-1.0900 channel. The remaining 40% have adopted a neutral stance. Indicator readings on the D1 are more definitive. Oscillators are 100% in the red (though 20% of them signal oversold conditions). Among trend indicators, the balance of power is 85% red to 15% green. The nearest support for the pair is located in the 1.0780 zone, followed by 1.0725-1.0740, 1.0620-1.0640, 1.0500-1.0515, and 1.0450. Bulls will encounter resistance in the areas of 1.0820, 1.0890-1.0925, 1.0985-1.1015, 1.1110-1.1140, and 1.1230-1.1275.
Key events for the upcoming week include the release of data on business activity (PMI) in the US services sector on Monday, February 5. The next day, volumes of retail sales in the Eurozone will be disclosed. Thursday traditionally brings information on the number of initial jobless claims in the United States. And towards the very end of the workweek, on Friday, February 9, data on consumer price inflation (CPI) in Germany, the main engine of the European economy, will be released.
GBP/USD: US Labor Market Delivers Blow to the Pound
Last week, on Thursday, February 1, the Bank of England (BoE), like its counterparts across the Channel and the Atlantic, maintained its key interest rate at 5.25%. The Bank of England made no changes to its policy and did not issue any dovish statements. However, the pound received support as two members of the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee continued to vote for a rate hike of 25 basis points. This argument proved to be relatively weak, especially since another committee member voted for a rate cut, while the overwhelming majority, eight members, supported keeping the rate unchanged.
Analysts continue to believe that expectations are on the side of the British currency, speculating that the BoE might be among the last to cut rates this year. However, according to Scotiabank specialists, for further growth of the GBP/USD pair, a breakthrough of the late December peak at 1.2825 is necessary. Yet, there seems to be no foundation for this at the moment. Moreover, strong data from the US labour market strengthened the dollar and prevented the pair from remaining near the upper boundary of the 1.2600-1.2800 sideways channel, where it has been trading for seven weeks.
GBP/USD concluded the past week at 1.2632. According to economists at Internationale Nederlanden Groep (ING), a strong dollar may keep GBP/USD around the 1.2600-1.2700 range in Q1 2024. Regarding the median forecast of analysts for the coming days, 35% voted for the pair falling below the 1.2600 support level, 50% for its rise, and 15% preferred to maintain neutrality. Unlike the experts, trend indicators on D1 show a slight bias towards the American currency, with 60% indicating a strengthening dollar and further decline of the pair, against 40% suggesting its rise. Among oscillators, 65% lean towards the dollar (with 10% indicating oversold conditions), 10% favour the pound, and the remaining 25% hold a neutral position. Should the pair move south, it will encounter support levels and zones at 1.2595-1.2610, 1.2500-1.2515, 1.2450, 1.2330, 1.2210, and 1.2070-1.2085. In case of an upward movement, resistance will be met at levels 1.2695-1.2725, 1.2785-1.2820, 1.2940, 1.3000, and 1.3140-1.3150.
No release of significant macroeconomic data related to the economy of the United Kingdom is anticipated for the upcoming week.
USD/JPY: BoJ Policy Shift: Dreams or Reality?
Strong U.S. labour market statistics dashed the hopes of bulls not only for the euro and the pound but also for the yen. At the beginning of the past week, the Japanese currency was gaining, and USD/JPY was trending downwards, marking a local minimum at 145.89 on Thursday, February 1. A sharp decline in the yield of U.S. Treasuries helped the yen. Specifically, the yield on 10-year U.S. bonds fell to its lowest level since the end of December: 3.9%. It is worth noting the correlation between U.S. securities and USD/JPY. If the yield on ten-year Treasury notes falls, the yen strengthens, and USD/JPY forms a downward trend. This was exactly the case. However, the end of the workweek was characterized by a clear advantage for the American currency, and the pair soared again, concluding at 148.35.
Many market participants continue to harbour hopes for a tightening of monetary policy by the Bank of Japan (BoJ). For instance, analysts at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) expect the BoJ to move away from negative interest rates in April, with additional changes in its Yield Curve Control (YCC) policy to support the Japanese yen in the second half of the year. “We believe,” CIBC strategists write, “that USD/JPY has already reached its peak and should […] decrease to 144.00 in Q2. Following this, we anticipate that rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and the prospect of gradual adjustments to the BoJ’s YCC will lead to a decline in USD/JPY to 140.00 in Q3 and 135.00 in Q4 2024.”
It’s important to note that many experts had anticipated a tightening of the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) monetary policy already in 2023: a topic extensively covered in previous discussions. However, this did not occur. And it might not happen now either.
In January, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the Tokyo region unexpectedly fell from 2.4% to 1.6%, and the core CPI, excluding fresh food and energy prices, decreased from 3.5% to 3.1%. Additionally, the growth of industrial production in Japan in December slowed to 1.8%, against a forecast of 2.4%. On a year-over-year basis, industrial production also showed further deceleration: in December, this indicator was -0.7% (year-on-year), an improvement compared to the previous period’s -1.4% but still marking a decline.
Such a significant easing of inflationary pressure and a slowdown in economic growth may lead to the BoJ not tightening its policy in the foreseeable future, leaving the interest rate at -0.1%. This forecast was also confirmed by the minutes from the Bank of Japan’s December meeting. It was indicated that the Board members agree that “it is necessary to patiently maintain a loose policy.”
Regarding the near-term outlook, only 25% of experts expect further strengthening of the dollar and an increase in USD/JPY. In contrast, 75% are siding with the yen, agreeing with CIBC economists that the pair has reached its peak. Trend indicators and oscillators on D1 are all pointing northward, with 100% indicating upward momentum, although 10% of the latter are in the overbought zone. The nearest support level is located in the 147.60 zone, followed by 146.85-147.15, 146.00, 145.30, 143.40-143.65, 142.20, 141.50, and 140.25-140.60. Resistance levels and zones are at 148.55-148.80, 149.85-150.00, 150.80, and 151.70-151.90.
No significant events or statistics related to the Japanese economy are expected in the upcoming week.
CRYPTOCURRENCIES: Halving – Grief or Joy?
Throughout the past week, BTC/USD moved with support at $42,000 without showing any significant results in either direction, drawing special attention to its statistics. Analysts note that the 12-month volatility of the first cryptocurrency has reached its lowest level in 12 years. The indicator has varied significantly over the years but has generally shown a clear downward trend over this period. From 179% in January 2012, it dropped to 45% at the beginning of this year.
A higher volatility figure indicates significant price variability and signals greater market unpredictability. Lower metric values suggest much more stable trading conditions. The decreased volatility could mean a larger number of long-term holders, according to CryptoQuant. The research department at Galaxy Digital predicts that the spot bitcoin ETFs launched in January will further smooth out price fluctuations. “A huge amount of BTC will be held in [investment] advisory accounts. They are not interested in intraday trading,” the experts state.
Analysts at Glassnode also spoke about long-term investors. Their report indicates that the overwhelming majority of such BTC holders still do not wish to part with their coins and adhere to a hodling strategy in anticipation of higher spot prices. According to K33 Market Research, the volume of spot trading in bitcoin reached “sustainably high activity following the approval of ETFs.” Data from The Block’s Data Dashboard shows that the monthly volume of on-chain transactions in the bitcoin network in January was at a multi-month high, with trading volume for January exceeding $1.11 trillion.
Regarding the Bitcoin ETFs launched in January, the situation has not been as promising as expected. According to several experts, this is a classic case of “buy the rumour, sell the news.” Initially, there was an impressive bull rally. Now, however, as these funds have become operational, market participants have begun actively taking profits.
The Grayscale ETF was converted from a trust fund, and by the end of January, it experienced a withdrawal of funds amounting to $2.2 billion. The reason for this is not only the profit-taking by the trust’s shareholders in 2023 but also dissatisfaction with high management fees. Grayscale charges a 1.5% fee, whereas other funds have managed to keep their fees between 0.2-0.3%. Among the ETF competitors, BlackRock continues to lead with $2.2 billion, with Fidelity approaching $2 billion. WisdomTree is at the bottom of the ranking with $6.3 million. As for the net inflow of funds since the launch of spot BTC-ETFs, it stands at a modest $760 million.
In addition to profit-taking, another reason putting pressure on the market has been the miners. The halving is scheduled for April 19, leaving roughly 2.5 months. If the price of digital gold does not show significant growth during this period, the majority of miners will face a severe liquidity shortage. Therefore, they have already started to sell off their BTC reserves to replenish liquidity. Since the approval of spot ETFs on January 10, they have sent a record 624,000 BTC to exchanges over the last six years, approximately worth $26 billion. According to estimates, miners still have about 1.8 million BTC left, valued at $76 billion. The sale of these reserves could potentially push bitcoin prices significantly lower.
Analysts at Matrixport have forecasted a drop in BTC/USD to $36,000. They believe that bitcoin might then appreciate in value, but only against a backdrop of favourable macroeconomic conditions and increasing liquidity. (It’s worth mentioning that these same analysts had predicted bitcoin would reach $125,000 in 2024 back in December).
Chris Burniske, a partner at the venture firm Placeholder, provided an even more pessimistic forecast. He believes that the price of the leading cryptocurrency will first fall to the $30,000-$36,000 range and then likely reach a local bottom around $20,000. “The consolidation will come lower than most people expect, due to too many variables (e.g., specifics of the crypto market, macroeconomics, adoption, and development of new products),” the expert warned. However, testing the levels around $20,000 will be a “real step” towards reaching previous highs, he believes. “The journey there will be volatile – expect setbacks. And it will take months. As always, your best friend is patience,” Burniske emphasized, adding that the decline in other assets will be even deeper than that of bitcoin.
Contrary to Chris Burniske, the forecast by analyst DonAlt appears significantly more optimistic. He cheered his 56,700 YouTube subscribers by noting that bitcoin managed to avoid a total price collapse after the launch of the Bitcoin ETFs. “Digital gold looks strong even after its price dropped below $40,000 last week,” he observed. The expert believes that the absence of mass selloffs is a positive sign. “For this reason, I am no longer in the bear camp; now, I am with the bulls,” he declared. DonAlt also emphasized that bitcoin is consolidating within a strong upward trend and is likely to regain bullish momentum once it overcomes resistance at the $44,000 level.
Another expert, known by the nickname Rekt Capital, believes traders have one last chance to buy bitcoin at a low price. He analysed historical data and came to the following conclusions:
1. If bitcoin does not become cheaper in the next two weeks, then the coin’s price will not significantly fall until the halving. 2. Approximately 60 days before the halving, BTC’s price will rise on the wave of hype surrounding the event. 3. After the halving, speculators will rush to sell the cryptocurrency, so bitcoin will depreciate for several weeks, and its value may drop by 20-38%. 4. Then a period of accumulation will begin, lasting up to 150 days, characterized by a relatively low level of BTC price volatility. 5. After this, a phase of parabolic growth in the bitcoin price will start, and its price will reach a new all-time high.
Markus Thielen, Head of Research at 10x Research, is a proponent of Elliott Wave Theory, which suggests that asset prices move in five waves. According to this theory, the first, third, and fifth waves are “impulse waves” that move the asset in the direction of the trend, while the others are corrective “retracement waves.” The analyst believes the recent decline in bitcoin’s price represents the fourth wave, i.e., a retracement. At present, the fifth wave is beginning, which could push the price upward. “Wave analysis has marked this recovery up to $52,671 potentially by the end of the first quarter of 2024,” Thielen announced.
Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of hedge fund SkyBridge Capital, pointed to a similar figure. “Suppose the price [on the day of the halving] is $50,000,” he predicts. “Multiply this BTC price by four, and it will reach this level [$200,000] within the next 18 months.” Previously, the head of SkyBridge claimed that the BTC rate could reach $100,000 after the halving. As an additional reason for a bullish rally, he cited the reduction of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate.
Regarding the long-term course, Scaramucci forecasts that bitcoin’s market capitalization could reach half of gold’s, which stands at $14.5 trillion. Therefore, by his calculations, the price per coin would amount to about $345,000.
Peter Schiff, the President of Euro Pacific Capital and a staunch opponent of the first cryptocurrency, made an unexpected long-term forecast. While he typically predicted a complete crash for bitcoin, he has now suggested that by 2031 the price of the coin could reach … $10 million, albeit under a very hypothetical scenario. According to him, this would only occur if the US dollar were to follow the path of “German paper marks.” This term informally referred to the currency introduced in Germany at the start of World War I in 1914 as a replacement for the previous gold-backed mark. In the early 1920s, the paper mark depreciated due to hyperinflation. At that time, companies paid wages several times a day so that workers could make purchases before prices rose again. The money supply grew so rapidly that the state could not print banknotes fast enough and had to enlist private companies for help. The largest denomination issued was a banknote worth 100 trillion marks.
In reality, Peter Schiff does not believe in an economic collapse and the fall of the US dollar. Thus, this forecast of his can be considered mockingly sarcastic towards bitcoin. However, Robert Kiyosaki, the economist and author of the bestseller “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” harbours no doubts about such a scenario. He continues to insist that gold, silver, and bitcoin should be part of every investor’s portfolio. He is confident that the price of BTC could reach $1 million in the event of a global economic collapse.
As of the evening of February 2, when this review was written, the global economy has not collapsed, BTC/USD has not reached either $1 million or $10 million, and is currently trading around $43,000. The total market capitalization of the crypto market stands at $1.65 trillion (up from $1.61 trillion a week ago). The Crypto Fear & Greed Index has increased to 63 points (from 49 a week ago), moving from the Neutral zone into the Greed zone.