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Saturday October 30, 2004 - 07:47:27 GMT

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Forex: Near-term political relief possible

Concerns over the US economy are liable to continue in the short term, especially with persistent unease over the current account deficit. The subdued inflation data within the GDP report will also increase speculation that there will be a pause in Fed tightening. The presidential election will be a significant near-term influence. The major concern will be a disputed election result and this would be likely to weaken the dollar. The markets would also prefer a Bush victory, but a decisive victory for either would be likely to offer some initial dollar support. The central banks are unlikely to show major concern until the Euro pushes towards the 1.35 level against the US currency. The US growth figures are also still strong in comparison with the Euro-zone. The most likely outcome is that there will be a decline to record lows against the Euro, punctuated by intermittent rallies.

US data releases

GDP third quarter 3.7% (3.3% second quarter)
Consumer confidence 92.8 Oct (96.7 Sep)
Jobless claims 350,000 week ending Oct 23rd (330,000 prev)

Market analysis

The dollar weakened sharply against the Euro early in the week to a low of 1.2840, within 100 basis points of the all-time low against the Euro. The dollar secured a correction later in the week, but was unable to push past 1.2630 and retreated back towards 1.2800 in New York on Friday. Dollar confidence will remain fragile weak due to persistent fears over the current account deficit.

US GDP growth was weaker than expected at 3.7% for the third quarter compared with expectations of a 4.0% increase, although this was still higher than the 3.3% for the second quarter. Consumer spending was robust and business investment also rebounded. The main focus of the report is likely to be the inflation indicator. The core personal consumer deflator, an inflation indicator favoured by Fed Chairman Greenspan, fell to 0.7% for the quarter from 1.7% previously, the lowest level for over 40 years. Employment costs were also moderate and this will reinforce speculation that the Fed will be able to slow interest rate increases. At this stage, there is still likely to be a 0.25% Fed funds increase in November to 2.0%, but the chances of an increase have slipped to close to 50% and there is a strong probability that the Fed will not increase rates in December.

Oil prices fell sharply over the second half back towards US$50 p/b after peaking close to US$56 p/b. Lower energy prices should have offered some dollar support, especially with a temptation to take profits in commodity currencies, and the dollarís reaction suggests that bearish sentiment is still firmly in control. Elsewhere, jobless claims rose more than expected to 350,000 in the latest week from 330,000 the previous week, but the number of continuing claims fell. Consumer confidence weakened, but the Chicago PMI index strengthened sharply to 68.5 in October from 61.9 with the production component very strong.

The US presidential election will remain an important near-term focus. The latest opinion polls still show a deadlocked position with neither Kerry or Bush able to secure a decisive advantage, although Bush generally retains a slight lead. The policy differences between the two should not have a major short-term dollar impact, although the US currency is likely to be slightly vulnerable in Asia if there is a Kerry victory. The marketís main concern will be the threat of a disputed victory or a succession of legal challenges and the US currency will weaken if there is not a clear result.

The German IFO index was marginally stronger than expected at 95.3 in October from 95.2 the previous month compared with expectations of a marginal decline. The official attitude towards Euro strength will be the prime near-term focus. The comments from ECB officials do not suggest major concern at this stage with monetary sources stating that there would be no intervention unless moves became more extreme.


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