US Dollar, Yen and Gold Rise as Wall Street Stocks Swoon to Start 2021


  • US Dollar, Yen and gold rise as Wall Street swoons to start 2021
  • ‘Lockdown trade’ dynamics fizzle, hinting at broader liquidation
  • Risk-off tilt hinted in APAC trade, Georgia runoff elections eyed
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The anti-risk US Dollar and Japanese Yen rose against their major currency counterparts as markets began 2021 in a defensive mood. The bellwether S&P 500 stock index suffered the largest one-day drop in two months. The broader MSCI World equities benchmark fell by the most since late November.

Crude oil prices tracked shares lower. The WTI contract spiked to the highest in almost a year only to end the day with the biggest loss in two months. Gold prices rose as the risk-off backdrop drove haven demand for US Treasury bonds, hurting yields. That helped bullion’s relative store-of-value appeal.

US Dollar, Yen and Gold Rise as Wall Street Stocks Swoon to Start 2021

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The newswires cited a dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases and a follow-on wave of economically disruptive containment efforts around the world were cited as the drivers of investors’ dour mood. However, the behavior of the Nasdaq/Dow stock index ratio warns something larger may be afoot.


The tech sector’s outperformance relative to more cyclically-minded ‘traditional’ industry – embodied in a sharply rising Nasdaq/Dow ratio – was a key narrative in 2020. This ‘lockdown trade’ reflected a tactical preference for companies insulated from and able to thrive amid Covid restrictions.

The ratio jumped as the selloff began on Monday, seemingly endorsing the idea that pandemic fears are to blame, but subsequently cratered. This points to capital flows away from risk and toward relative safety within the equities realm, suggesting broader unease.

I have posited that financial markets may be running out of good news to speculate upon. If the trade dynamics on display yesterday are able to find follow-through, price action would seemingly endorse that view. For now, a single day’s moves in the wake of a long holiday and the calendar year turn need confirmation.


Futures tracking top Asia-Pacific bourses point lower, suggesting the risk-off tilt will carry through for now as a new international trading day begins. The economic data docket is all but empty, which will probably leave broad-based sentiment trends at the forefront.

The upcoming runoff elections in the US state of Georgia may now enter the spotlight. Democratic Party challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock hold narrow leads in the polls. If they manage to win, the Senate will be split squarely down the middle.

A tie-breaking vote from incoming Vice President Kamala Harris would then give Democrats a narrow edge. That would complement their control of the House and the White House, which may enable a greater degree of fiscal stimulus ahead. To that end, such an outcome may give risk appetite a shot in the arm.

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— Written by Ilya Spivak, Head Strategist, APAC for Finance

To contact Ilya, use the comments section below or @IlyaSpivak on Twitter

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By Jonathan Prop

Jonathan Prop is an independent financial advisor. He has been working in finance for the last 20 years. After retiring early in his 40s, Jonathan decided to help others get to grip with financial markets, particularly his area of expertise - forex!

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