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Saturday November 20, 2004 - 12:19:37 GMT

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Forex: Greenspan highlights dollar risks

There will be further speculation that US officials will condone steady dollar depreciation to help ease the current account deficit, especially after the comments from Fed Chairman Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Snow over the last week. There is also very little chance that the US will back near-term intervention to stem dollar losses unless markets become disorderly or other US assets start to weaken sharply. The US growth data has, however, remained favourable and there is an even greater chance that US interest rates will increase during December. Higher yields will offer some dollar support and Euro-zone fundamentals are fragile. The dollar's overall trend still looks to be for further depreciation. There will, however, be significant rallies at times, potentially early in 2005, and further rapid dollar losses should be avoided.

US data releases

Capital inflows +US$63.4bn Sep (+US$59.9bn Sep)
Consumer prices +0.6% Oct (+0.1% Sep)
Philadelphia Fed index +20.7 Nov (+28.5 Oct)
Jobless claims 334,000 week ending Nov 13th (337,000 prev)

Market analysis

The dollar remained under pressure for much of the week and weakened to a fresh record low against the Euro of 1.3070. After a brief recovery to 1.2940, the dollar weakened back beyond 1.30 on Friday. Market attention has remained focused on the US current account deficit, capital flows and official US dollar policy. The capital flows data was stronger than expected with inflows of US$63.4bn for September compared with US$59.9bn the previous month. There had been some forecasts that inflows could decline to US$25bn or lower and the fact that the US currency failed to benefit indicates the depth of negative US currency sentiment.

The market fears over the current account have increased and there is also increased speculation that the US administration will be happy to see a gradual decline in the US currency to help ease the trade imbalances. The US Treasury has repeated its strong dollar policy, but the markets are increasingly skeptical. The Treasury is not in a position to change the policy in public as this would seriously damage dollar confidence, but markets will assume they will be comfortable with gradual depreciation. There has also been further evidence that the Federal Reserve is concerned over the current account position. The remarks by Fed Chairman Greenspan were surprisingly candid as he warned that overseas appetite for dollar assets would eventually falter.

There has been evidence of divisions between the US and Europe over exchange rates. The US wants European nations to do more to boost domestic demand while Europe wants the US to combat the US budget deficits. If there are more serious divisions, the US currency will be subjected to sustained downward pressure. In this context, the comments at this weekend's G20 meetings will be important for dollar prospects. Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Snow also voiced major doubts over market intervention.

The US data was generally firm over the week, but the markets were not focusing elsewhere and the impact was limited. Consumer prices rose by a larger than expected 0.6% for October with the underlying increase held at 0.2%. Industrial production rose by a stronger than expected 0.7% for the month and there was a 6.4% increase in housing starts. Jobless claims also fell to 334,000 from 337,000 previously. The Philadelphia Fed index dipped to 20.9 in November. Greenspan was, however, also surprisingly blunt on interest rates and warned that US rates were set to rise further.


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