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Tuesday May 18, 2004 - 21:09:52 GMT -

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Euro Lower on Weaker ZEW

Daily Forex Report 05-18-04

· Weaker ZEW economic sentiment survey
· Softer than expected UK CPI report
· Stronger than expected Japanese GDP growth


The euro has trended lower throughout the US trading session following a weaker than expected German ZEW economic sentiment survey. This fifth consecutive decline brings the overall index to a 10-month low. The market had anticipated a marginal decline in the expectations component from 49.7 to 49.0, but instead it fell to 46.4. According to the ZEW, financial experts are increasingly skeptical about the economic recovery in Germany. Their assessment of current conditions also deteriorated. The recent deterioration in sentiment has stemmed from rising oil prices and weak domestic demand. Germany, the world’s third largest net oil importer has been particularly hard hit by the recent surge in oil prices. However, one bit of encouragement may come from sentiment on the outlook for the Eurozone economy as a whole, which remained generally unchanged, rising marginally from 59.1 to 59.2. Meanwhile, Eurozone inflation edged higher by 0.4% in the month of April, with the annual inflation rate rising to 2.0% from 1.7% in March. The inflation rate is now right at the ECB’s medium-term target, after having dipped below this level since the beginning of the year. This will give the ECB a stronger argument to keep rates unchanged. Despite the market’s call for lower rates, the ECB has been very reluctant to accommodate these requests, citing that the Euro area economy has been strengthening and that conditions are in place for a continued recovery. Their next rate setting meeting is scheduled for June 3rd.


After yesterday’s 280-pip bloodbath in USDCHF, the greenback has recouped some of its recent losses. Bush’s renomination of Greenspan as Federal Reserve Chairman and Greenspan’s response that he will continue at the Fed if confirmed by Senate, has provided a further boost to the dollar. Greenspan’s term ends on June 20th - if his renomination is approved, which there is no doubt it will be, since he is commonly known as the greatest central banker of all time, this would be his fifth term. Today’s comments from Fed President Broaddus that he is “dusting off my inflation hawk feathers,” has increased speculation that voter Bernanke and Chairman Greenspan will be making similar comments on Thursday. What we will looking for are comments suggesting that the Fed’s rate hikes will be less than “measured” or that inflation is becoming increasingly concerning. Meanwhile US housing starts dipped in April, while permits increased. This indicates that builders are still optimistic that demand will be solid despite the prospect of higher rates.


The British pound remains under pressure as rumors continued to swirl about the possible resignation of Prime Minister Tony Blair and a softer than expected UK consumer price inflation report. Although inflation growth has increased from the alarmingly low 1.1% in March to 1.2% in April, the market expected higher oil prices to push growth to 1.3%. Although the rate still remains well below the Bank of England’s 2% target, it is in line with the Bank’s inflation forecasts. Most recently, the BoE increased interest rates by 25bp based upon the expectation that inflation will overshoot the Bank’s target in two years. Tomorrow, we are expecting the minutes from the May 5/6 monetary policy meeting. The range in the pound has been consolidating since last week, the release of the minutes from the meeting at which the committee raised interest rates has a high likelihood of triggering a sharp move. We will be looking for information on whether the BoE intends to maintain their gradual mantra.


The Japanese economy grew 1.4% in the first quarter, far surpassing the market’s forecast of 0.9%. This is the second strongest growth since the fourth quarter of 1996 and continues to highlight the strength of the Japanese economy. Firm domestic demand and rising housing construction have been the primary drivers of strength. The GDP deflator improved marginally from –2.7% to -2.6%, indicating that deflation has eased moderately. According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the Cabinet office is expected to upgrade their assessment of the labor market in its monthly economic report scheduled for release on Friday. However, gains in the yen have not been sustained on the prospects of Fed tightening and the damaging effects of soaring oil prices.


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