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Thursday January 31, 2008 - 12:29:07 GMT
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Hold on to your Hats!

FX Trading – Hold on to Your Hats

Well, the currency market woke up from its coma for about two or three hours yesterday. Price action after the Fed cut interest rates by 50 basis points was wild, to say the least. The dollar took a beating immediately after the announcement, and U.S. stocks jumped.

But the knee-jerk reaction in the stock market was quickly counteracted by news that two major bond insurers are set to each lose more than $11 billion dollars on guarantees related to the credit mess! And thank goodness, because with the FOMC meeting behind us I don’t know what the guys on CNBC might have to talk about all day.

The bond insurer bad news ushered in a stunning reversal in the Dow.  Where’s the Plunge Protection Team when you need them. (Or another view, imagine how far the Dow would have plunged with the PPT there to cushion the blow.)  In fact, the Dow lost more than 200 points in the final hour of trading to finish the day in the red. This tells me two things:

1) I should be scared out of my mind if I trade in the stock market. Just when stock traders thought their prayers had been answered they get more news that shows …
2) The trouble isn’t over yet. The Fed can cut all they want, but the time bombs are ticking away on corporate balance sheets, especially those most closely tied to the subprime situation.

Is the Fed wrong to keep bringing down interest rates? Perhaps not. And some would argue that it’s a must. But I think, after yesterday’s events, despite what the Fed does, Wall Street may start to understand it’s not out of the woods just yet.

As you might imagine, yesterday, the only two major currencies that were able to make headway at the end of the day, as the Dow plunged, were those tied to risk-aversion: the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc.

 [Charts not available in text format]


There’s not much holding these two back right now! The potential for more subprime disappointment could boost these currencies even higher.

We all know about subprime.  Most of us expect it to claim more victims.  But one thing very few expect is the dollar to rebound on stronger than expected US growth.  Yes, 4th quarter GDP was disappointing, but Durable Goods looked good.  And the preliminary jobs report released yesterday by ADP was optimistic.

This is an excerpt from a piece written on Tuesday by Deutsche Bank economists Joseph LaVorgna and Carl Riccadonna [our emphasis]:

“January nonfarm payrolls could surprise to the upside on Friday morning. This is what jobless claims are telling us. If this week’s initial claims figures are near our forecast of 315k, this would put the average level in January at an extremely low 310k, which is, more importantly, down 33k from December’s 343k level. It is very unusual for jobless claims, in seasonally adjusted terms, to decline by 30k or more between December and January. In fact, there has been only one other time when claims declined by 30k or more over this period. It was from December 1982 to January 1983, when claims dropped by 33k in the month. Of course, employment is a tricky series to forecast, and jobless claims have not been as good of a predictor of jobs trends as they used to be. Our favorite indicator is the ADP employment survey, which is reported tomorrow. We think it is the best payroll indicator in large part because the survey tries to mimic the BLS’ approach by counting the actual number of people on the payroll. However, we think claims may be telling us something important because of the particular month in which they declined.”

We’ll get a taste of jobless claims later this morning, but the big bopper of jobs reports comes tomorrow with the release of non-farm payrolls and unemployment. Hold on to your hats!

John Ross Crooks III
Black Swan Capital



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