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Tuesday March 18, 2008 - 14:14:53 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (18 March 2008)

The euro appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.5830 level and was supported around the $1.5715 level.  Technically, today’s intraday low was just below the 23.6% retracement of the move from $1.5140 to $1.5905.  Traders paid close attention to earnings results from U.S. investment banking giants Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers.  The former’s earnings were stronger-than-expected while the latter’s profits fell 57%.  Dealers are very concerned that another major financial institution could falter in the wake of Bear Stearn’s monumental collapse over the past week.  The Federal Open Market Committee meets today and is expected to reduce the federal funds target rate by up to 100bps.  A move of that caliber would essentially push real U.S. interest rates into negative territory when adjusted for inflation.  The Fed has recently unveiled many creative lending and credit facilities to try and improve the liquidity transmission mechanisms for commercial banks, investment banks, and primary dealers but it remains to be seen if the Fed can contain the massive problems inherent in the banking and financial systems, or if more credit market dislocations will evolve.  Data released in the U.S. today saw February housing starts fall 0.6% to an annualized 1.065 million rate while February building permits fell 7.8% to an annualized rate of 978,000.  Also, February producer prices were up 0.3% m/m on the headline level and 0.5% m/m on the core level.  On an annualized basis, headline PPI was up 6.4% with core PPI up 2.4% y/y.  In eurozone news, Germany’s RWI institute reaffirmed its 2008 GDP growth estimate of 1.7%.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.5610 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥97.95 level and was supported around the ¥96.85 levels.  The pair retraced some of the sizable gains it notched yesterday. Finance minister Nukaga verbally intervened again overnight, saying “The [Group of Seven] shares the view that excessive currency moves are undesirable for the world economy, so [Japan] will closely monitor the market” and reiterated current moves are “excessive.”  Nukaga did not speak directly about the prospect of a yen-selling intervention to give the U.S. dollar some support but said Japan will continue to consult with the U.S. and Europe.  The Fukuda government put forth a new candidate, former MoF bureaucrat Koji Tanami, as its nominee to assume the governorship of Bank of Japan after Governor Fukui retires tomorrow.  Opposition lawmakers have signaled they will not support Tanami, much as they failed to support former nominee Muto.  The Nikkei 225 stock index gained 1.50% to close at ¥11,964.16.  Dollar offers are cited around the ¥100.65 level.  The euro gained ground vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥154.65 level and was supported around the ¥152.55 level.  The British pound and Swiss franc moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested offers around the ¥197.60 and ¥99.15 levels, respectively.  The Chinese yuan appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CNY 7.0815 level, down from CNY 7.0830 and the pair’s lowest close since the yuan revaluation of July 2005.  People’s Bank of China announced it is lifting the reserve ration requirement by 50bps from 25 March, meaning the rate for most banks will be 15.5%.  China was forced to make the move on account of rampant credit growth and inflation.  Data released in China today saw February property prices in 70 major cities up 10.9% y/y.  Premier Wen said China has no plans to change its inflation growth target from its current target of 4.8%.

The British pound moved sharply higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 2.0195 level and was supported around the $1.9950 level.  Sterling has been quite volatile over the past several days as short-term funding rates have moved much higher.  Bank of England Governor King canceled a visit to the West Midlands today to “monitor events in London.”  The BoE auctioned off ₤10 billion in three-month liquidity today and the bid-to-cover ratio was 1.69%, higher than February’s 1.34% ratio and an indication that demand for short-term funding is significant.  Many traders believe BoE will need to enact more substantial measures to soften interbank lending rates but this was rendered difficult by U.K. February annual consumer price inflation released today and confirmed a jump in price pressures to 2.5%, the fastest rise since May.  Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.9910 level.  The euro weakened vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the ₤0.7810 level and was capped around the ₤0.7885 level.


The Swiss franc depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 0.9910 level and was supported around the CHF 0.9785 level.  The pair established a new lifetime low yesterday before retracing some gains.  Data released in Switzerland today saw Q4 industrial production rose 9.1% y/y, down from 10.9% y/y in Q3.  The franc has been bid to multi-decade highs recently as short franc carry trades have been unwound.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.0105 level.  The euro and British pound gained ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested offers around the CHF 1.5625 and CHF 1.9980 levels, respectively.

A$/ NZ$

The Australian dollar moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the Aussie tested offers around the US$ 0.9305 level and was supported around the $0.9165 level.  The pair retraced some of yesterday’s losses incurred as traders reduced exposure to higher-yielding currencies.  Minutes from Reserve Bank of Australia’s policy deliberations suggest the central bank may have tightened monetary policy sufficiently since mid-2007 to counter rising inflation.  Australian dollar bids are cited around the US$ 0.9120 level.  The New Zealand dollar gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the kiwi tested offers around the US$ 0.8100 figure and was supported around the $0.7975 level.  Finance minister Cullen today said it is possible New Zealand may encounter a recession on account of international financial woes.  New Zealand dollar bids are cited around the US$ 0.7895 level.


The Canadian dollar gained moderate ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the C$ 0.9895 level and was capped around the C$ 0.9985 level.  Data released in Canada today saw February consumer price inflation rise an annualized 1.8%, down from 2.2% in January.  Core annual CPI moved higher to 1.5% from 1.4% in January.  Headline CPI was up 0.4% m/m and core CPI was up a monthly 0.5%.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$ 1.0080 level.


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