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Friday October 15, 2004 - 20:03:17 GMT
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Forex Points: Dollar Slides As Confidence Slips to 2003 Lows

DailyFX Forex Fundamentals 10-15-04

By Kathy Lien, Chief Strategist of www.dailyfx.com

· US Retail Sales Double Estimates, But Confidence Slips to 2003 Lows
· Japanese Appetite for Foreign Bonds Outstrips Foreign Demand
· Oil Hits a High of $55 A Barrel

EURUSD

There were explosive gains in the euro today as the market turned its focus to US economic data. A stronger US retail sales report was offset by a shockingly weak Empire State manufacturing survey, industrial production report and University of Michigan consumer confidence report. Retail sales was the most anticipated data release this morning and although the surge in spending was twice what the market had anticipated, the bulk of the gains came from a retracement in auto sales, which fell –0.2% the prior month. Auto manufacturers gave heavy incentives to drive car sales during the month of September. Although the report was exceptionally positive and means well for third quarter GDP, of which two thirds are accounted for by consumer spending, the fact that consumer confidence fell to the lowest level since 2003 and manufacturing / factory activity is clearly slowing raises the concern of whether the pace of consumer spending can be sustained. The amount and extent of weak releases outweighed the positive retail sales report causing the dollar remains under pressure. We expect this to continue to be the case in the week ahead, with most traders looking for opportunities to buy on dips.

USDCHF

The impressive US retail sales report was quickly forgotten as the plethora of weaker US data stole the limelight. Manufacturing activity in the NY region retraced extensively after its sharp gains in September. The index dropped from a downwardly revised 27.26 to 17.43. The employment, workweek and new orders components all retraced while the unfilled orders index dipped into contractionary territory. Confirming weaker factory activity nationwide was lagging US industrial production, which increased by a dismal 0.1% in September. The US now joins Germany, France and Italy in experiencing weaker manufacturing sector growth. Capacity utilization also remained unchanged at 77.2%, but the August report was revised downward from 77.3%. More importantly though, confidence fell significantly in the month of October. The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence survey decreased from 94.2 to 87.5 on the back of soaring energy prices and slower job growth. With oil prices hitting $50 a barrel, the problem still exists. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan tried to downplay the significance of the recent rise in oil prices by saying that its effect on the economy ‘is slower than in the 1970s,” he did warn though that a more “material” increase would have “serious” consequences.

GBPUSD

The British pound ended the week higher. The market is still debating whether the Bank of England is at the end of their tightening cycle and continued shifting of expectations on this issue should be the primary driver of pound movements, aside from the dollar of course. Next week, the most important releases will be retail sales for the month of September and the third quarter GDP report. Both are expected to come in softer than the previous release. After having raised interest rates by 125bp since last November, the Bank of England has been successful in gradually slowing the economy. This success has been and will continue to be reflected in economic data releases starting with Monday’s RICS house price balance. However, uncertainty still remains as recent comments by BoE King suggest that it may be “premature” to write off any further hikes.

USDJPY

The Japanese yen remains under pressure, decoupling from yen fundamentals as the dollar takes the driver seat for the pair. All data released today is supportive of a fall in the Japanese yen. Leading indicators for the month of August were revised lower from 72.2% to 65.0%, but it still reflects expansionary conditions. The MoF also reported a huge net outflow for the week ending October 8th. Although foreigner demand for Japanese shares increased from 189.7 billion yen to 349.73 billion yen, it was enough to offset Japanese appetite for foreign bonds. The net portfolio outflow for the week was $15.2 billion. Over the past week, it also appears that the Japanese yen has become immune to the continual surge in oil prices. Oil has increased for four consecutive trading sessions, each time reaching new record highs. Yet the yen has remained bid against the dollar this entire week.

 

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