20 million US Citizens Unemployed?


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FX Update April 16 – 2020

By: Stuart Cowell


Relatively narrow ranges have been prevailing so far today in currency markets, into early trading in Europe. The Dollar has retained a bid, edging out fresh highs against the Australian and Canadian dollars, though remaining shy of the highs seen yesterday against the Euro and Pound. Stock markets in Asia started off in decline before either paring or more than recovering losses, while S&P 500 futures are showing a gain of nearly 1%, reversing some of the 2.2% decline the cash version of the index saw yesterday. Oil prices have remained heavy, with WTI benchmark futures sinking back under $20.00, keeping yesterday’s 21-year low at $19.20 in the frame.


In news, Japan is reportedly set to declare a national emergency in the face of a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases, while other countries, including Germany, Denmark, Norway and Austria, are taking first steps to loosen lockdown measures. Australia released better than expected March jobs data, though this was quickly discarded as being a false signal as the data period didn’t fully cover the impact of economic lockdowns. Similarly, a 4.3% drop in the UK’s BRC retail sales figure in March significantly understated the true current picture as it captured a surge in sales in the couple of weeks leading up to the nation going into lockdown.


The US will today release weekly jobless claims for the week to April 11th, a data series that has been best capturing the real-time impact of virus-containing measures in the world’s biggest economy. The median forecast is for another big surge, of 5,000k, though even this would mark a deceleration as states catch up with the processing of claims from the late-March to early-April period. Expectations vary significantly this week from lows of 1,000k to 7,000k. The outlook remains uncertain, with close to 20 million US citizens likely to be claiming unemployment benefit for the first time in the last month, representing over 13% of the workforce. However, a phased, partial reopening of economies is starting to happen, with President Trump expected to announce his plans later today, but it’s looking clear that the road to back to normalcy will be a long one, with a cure or vaccine not likely to be available until next year. Such a backdrop would keep the Dollar, Yen and other safe havens broadly underpinned while curtailing upside potential of commodity and emerging market currencies.

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