Saturday October 9, 2004 - 11:17:09 GMT
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INVESTICA Ltd - www.investica.co.uk
Dollar faces crucial test
The disappointing US employment report will raise fresh doubts over the US economy's strength, with concerns over a fourth-quarter slowdown. The high level of oil prices will also tend to subdue growth. Interest rates will remain an important focus and there are likely to be growing doubts over a December rate increase. The dollar damage will be contained for now if a November rate increase is sanctioned, but failure to increase in November would certainly damage the US currency. The weak payroll report will also increase the political pressure on Bush and this is likely to increase market nerves over the election result. The Euro-zone data is likely to remain fragile, but there is the small possibility that the ECB will be forced to increase interest rates to stem inflation. There is likely to be a tough and crucial market battle around the 1.25 level as a move through this level would be liable to accelerate dollar losses. The Euro will still find it difficult to push above this level in the short term.
US data releases
Non-farm payrolls +96,000 Sep (+128,000 Aug)
Unemployment 5.4% Sep (5.4% Aug)
ISM services 56.7 Sep (58.2 Aug)
Jobless claims 335,000 week ending Oct 1st (372,000 prev)
The Euro weakened back to a low near 1.2250 before rallying to 1.2320 ahead of the US payroll figures on Friday. The weaker than expected US employment figures pushed the dollar to a low of 1.2435 in New York before a marginal recovery.
The September employment increase was significantly weaker than expected at 96,000 after a downwardly revised 128,000 in August and compared with the 144,000 previously reported. The BLS does not think there was a material hurricane impact on the figures. There will be concern that retail jobs fell for a second successive month, especially as this could signal greater consumer caution and a weaker sales trend. The one piece of good news was an upward revision for the year to March 2004 of 250,000.
Elsewhere, the ISM services-sector index dipped to 56.7 in September from 58.2 in August, the lowest reading since May 2003. Although jobless claims fell to 335,000 from 372,000 the previous month, the number of lay-offs rose to an 8-month high according to the Challenger Group. The net impact of the data this week will be to increase concerns over the economy. Oil prices will also remain an important focus in the short term, especially with futures prices pushing above the US$53 p/b level during the week. There have been some cautious remarks from Fed officials and there will be concern that high energy costs will undermine the US economy, prevent further interest rate increases and undermine the dollar.
The weak employment report will also have political implications as it will give the Democrats greater ammunition to attack President Bush. The employment report confirmed that over 500,000 jobs have been lost during Bush’s presidency, the worst performance since 1932. The markets would probably be more comfortable with a presidential election victory by Bush and any sign of Kerry overtaking Bush would be likely to undermine the US currency slightly.
The Euro-zone PMI index for the services sector fell to 53.3 in September from 54.5 the previous month and there was a further increase in German unemployment. The ECB left interest rates unchanged during the week at 2.0%. The overall tone of official comments was less optimistic than previously with concerns over the impact of high oil prices. ECB officials were, however, also uneasy over the impact of high energy costs on overall price levels and are determined to prevent secondary inflationary pressure. There is, therefore, the possibility that Euro-zone interest rates will be increased during the fourth quarter on inflation grounds.
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