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Thursday February 21, 2008 - 16:33:07 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (21 February 2008)

The euro appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.4760 level and was supported around the US$ 1.4700 figure.  The common currency reached its highest level since 5 February, spurred by yesterday’s release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting at the end of January.  The Fed reduced its projection for economic growth in 2008 on account of the credit crunch and housing market recession and indicated it sees higher unemployment and higher inflation.  The Fed now expects GDP will expand between 1.3% and 2.0% in 2008, down from the previous forecast of 1.8% to 2.5%.  Also, the Fed is now predicting the unemployment rate will be around 5.2% to 5.3% in 2008, up from the previous forecast of 4.9% and the 2007 average unemployment rate of 4.6%.  Similarly, the Fed now foresees inflation between 2.1% and 2.4%, above the previous estimate of 1.8% to 2.1%.  These new forecasts evidence the difficult economic environment the Fed faces. Fed policymakers must balance their decisions against a backdrop of elevated inflation and diminishing economic growth prospects.  Many traders anticipate the FOMC will reduce the fed funds target rate by 25bps or 50bp on 18 March.  Dallas Fed President Fisher was the lone dissenter in the most recent FOMC meeting and argued that monetary policy is already “quite stimulative while headline inflation is too high.”   Data released in the U.S. today saw weekly initial jobless claims fall 9,000 to 349,000 while continuing jobless claims rose 48,000 to 2.784 million.  Also, the Philadelphia Fed’s February manufacturing index fell to -24.0 from -20.9 in January while January leading economic indicators fell 0.1% following December’s 0.2% decline.  In eurozone news, the European Commission reduced its economic growth forecast for the eurozone and increased its inflation outlook.  The EC now sees EMU-15 GDP growth of 1.8% in 2008, down from its previous estimate of 2.2%. Also, EMU-15 inflation is now expected to be about 2.6% this year, up from the previous estimate of 2.1%.  Likewise, Germany’s Ifo institute reduced its 2008 German GDP forecast to 1.6% from 1.8%.  Notably, French January consumer prices fell 0.1% m/m and were up 2.8% y/y, more-than-expected.  Moreover, the EMU-13 December current account balance printed at -€10.3 billion, compared with a surplus of €2.3 billion in November.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.4490 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen appreciated marginally vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥107.90 level and was capped around the ¥108.30 level.  The pair’s range was quite narrow ahead of tonight’s comments from Bank of Japan Governor Fukui.  Data released in Japan overnight saw the December all-industries index fall 0.2% m/m, an improvement from November’s 0.5% decline.  The December tertiary index was off 0.6% m/m in December while the construction industry index was off 0.1%.  The big news in Japan overnight was a report that Japan’s merchandise trade deficit surged to ¥79.34 billion in January from ¥3.49 billion one year earlier.  The Nikkei 225 stock index gained 2.84% to close at ¥13,688.28.  Dollar bids are cited around the ¥106.90 level.  The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥159.55 level and was supported around the ¥158.90 level.  The British pound appreciated vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested offers around the ¥211.95 level while the Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the pair tested bids around the ¥209.70 level.  The Chinese yuan appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 7.1413 in the over-the-counter market, down from CNY 7.1436 – the pair’s lowest close since the yuan revaluation of July 2005. The Chinese government reported it expects China’s 2008 trade surplus to be around US$ 320 billion, up 22%. 

The British pound rallied sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.9595 level and was supported around the $1.9405 level.  Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 61.8% retracement of the move from $1.9735 to $1.9360 level.  Sterling rocketed higher after the release of stronger-than-expected U.K. retail sales data showed January retail sales were up 0.8% m/m and 5.6% y/y. These data could render it more difficult for Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to reduce interest rates further at this time.  BoE MPC member Sentance today said “In my judgment, an outright recession - in which economic activity falls year-on-year - is a remote risk for the U.K. economy at present. But we should expect to see a significant slowdown in growth. And there remains a lot of uncertainty about how pronounced and prolonged this will be."  His comments suggest the normally hawkish policymaker may be inclined to vote for lower rates in the future.  Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.9260 level.  The euro weakened vis-à-vis the British pound tested bids around the ₤0.7515 level and was capped around the ₤0.7580 level.



The Swiss franc appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.0940 level and was capped around the CHF 1.1030 level.  Data released in Switzerland today saw the January trade surplus widen to CHF 1.2 billion from CHF 198.1 million in December. Also, January producer price inflation was up 0.5% m/m and 3.7% y/y.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1155 level.  The euro and British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested offers around the CHF 1.6230 and CHF 2.1580 levels, respectively.


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