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Wednesday March 19, 2008 - 14:49:22 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (19 March 2008)

The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.5785 level and was supported around the $1.5610 level. The Federal Open Market Committee reduced the federal funds target rate by 75bps to 2.25% and lowered the discount rate by 75bps to 2.50%.  Fed policymakers reported “Recent information indicates that the outlook for economic activity has weakened further. Growth in consumer spending has slowed and labor markets have softened.  Financial markets remain under considerable stress, and the tightening of credit conditions and the deepening of the housing contraction are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters. Inflation has been elevated, and some indicators of inflation expectations have risen.  The Committee expects inflation to moderate in coming quarters, reflecting a projected leveling-out of energy and other commodity prices and an easing of pressures on resource utilization.  Still, uncertainty about the inflation outlook has increased.  It will be necessary to continue to monitor inflation developments carefully. Today’s policy action, combined with those taken earlier, including measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate growth over time and to mitigate the risks to economic activity.  However, downside risks to growth remain.  The Committee will act in a timely manner as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.  Dallas Fed President Fisher and Philadelphia Fed President Plosser dissented and wanted less than a 75bps monetary easing.  Traders are paying very close attention to the financial markets, interbank funding rates, etc. to determine if stresses on the financial system are lessening. In eurozone news, the EMU-15 trade deficit registered -€10.7 billion in January, the largest imbalance since the euro’s inception in 1999 and worse than December’s €4.1 billion level.  Germany’s HWWI institute lowered its 2008 GDP forecast to below 1.5% from the previous estimate of 1.7%.  European Central Bank member Weber said financial institutions should enhance their transparency by “disclosing the extent of writedowns.”  G7 policymakers will convene in Washington, D.C. on 11 April and the recent market turmoil is expected to be high atop their agenda.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.5610 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥97.65 level and was capped around the ¥100.45 level.  Bank of Japan will name Masaaki Shirakawa, a new Deputy Governor, to temporarily assume the role as Governor following today’s retirement of Governor Fukui.  Opposition lawmakers have been unable to agree on a suitable replacement for Fukui and this renders it likely the top slot will be vacant for the first time since World War II.  The Japanese government downgraded its economic assessment for the second consecutive month, citing stagnant industrial production and capital spending and weak private consumption.  The Nikkei 225 stock index gained 2.48% to close at ¥12,260.44.  Dollar offers are cited around the ¥102.05 level.  The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥157.00 figure and was supported around the ¥154.05 level.  The British pound and Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥195.80 and ¥98.90 levels, respectively.  The Chinese yuan appreciated sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 7.0630 in the over-the-counter market, down from CNY 7.0815, the pair’s lowest close since the yuan revaluation on July 2005.

The British pound fell sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.9920 level and was capped around the $2.0150 level.  Sterling fell sharply on market rumours that a major financial institution in the U.K. is having financial difficulties.  Attention is focused on HBOS Plc, a bank that is putatively in trouble whose shares fell 10% today.  Bank of England denied market reports that officials have canceled their Easter breaks to remain in London and deal with the capital markets crisis.  Minutes from the BoE Monetary Policy Committee’s March policy deliberations were released today and they confirmed that Deputy Governor Gieve joined archdove Blanchflower in voting for a 25bps rate cut.  Dealers believe there may be increasing momentum for a rate cut in April or May.  Data released in the U.K. today saw the CBI’s March monthly industrial trends survey report the balance of manufacturers reporting above-normal order books rose to +7% from +3% in February.  Also, February unemployment declined for the seventeenth consecutive month but the drop in the claimant count of 2,800 was the smallest since October 2006.  Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.9720 level.  The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.7880 level and was supported around the ₤0.7770 level.


The Swiss franc appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 0.9870 level and was capped around the CHF 1.0050 level.  The pair retraced some of the gains it made yesterday following the Fed’s decision to ease interest rates.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.0105 level.  The euro and British pound came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested bids around the CHF 1.5570 and CHF 1.9785 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$ 0.9355 level and was supported around the $0.9260 level.  Data released in Australia overnight saw Q4 housing starts up 2.6% while February merchandise goods imports were up 0.3%.  Also, the Westpac leading index of economic activity fell 0.1 points in January and the March skilled vacancies index was off 2.2% m/m in March.  Australian dollar bids are cited around the US$ 0.9120 level.  The New Zealand dollar gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the kiwi tested offers around the US$ 0.8170 level and was supported around the $0.8065 level.  New Zealand dollar bids are cited around the US$ 0.7895 level.


The Canadian dollar lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the C$ 0.9995 level and was supported around the C$ 0.9875 level.  Data released in Canada today saw January wholesale trade increase 2.6%, reversing December’s 2.6% decline.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$ 1.0080 level.


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