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Friday January 23, 2009 - 17:41:49 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (23 January 2009)

The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.2765 level and was capped around the $1.3030 level.  The U.S. dollar’s ascent continued and the common currency reached its lowest level since mid-December.  Data released in the eurozone today saw the January EMU-15 PMI services index improve to 42.5 from 42.1 in December, above estimates but still at a contractionary level.  These data upped the chances the European Central Bank will cut interest rates again in March and it is too soon to know if the eurozone services sector has reached rock bottom.  Germany reported it may lengthen the tenor of state guarantees for bank loans to five years but will not nationalize banks’ toxic assets.  One problem that is currently causing the euro to depreciate involves the various amounts of member countries’ exposure to toxic assets and credit spreads that have become more divergent following the recent downgrade of Greece and Spain.  Also, the lack of an institutional framework at the European Union level means individual countries are able to react more efficiently regarding fiscal stimuli and other easing measures.  ECB member Bini Smaghi reported “there is little room to reduce the nominal interest rate” below its current 2% level absent evidence of deflation.  The flash German composite output index for January fell to 38.0 from 39.5 in December.  Also, German November construction orders slumped 17.4% y/y and French firms’ business confidence remained in January at a record low of +73.  In U.S. news, Treasury Secretary nominee Geithner may be confirmed by the Senate and General Electric warned of a very difficult period ahead in 2009.  U.S. equity markets remained under pressure amid growing speculation another wave of support from the federal government for troubled banks may soon be required.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.2475 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥89.60 level and was supported around the ¥88.00 figure.  The yen was strong across the board but broad-based U.S. dollar support lifted the pair higher. Japanese monetary authorities ratcheted up the verbal intervention overnight with finance minister Nakagawa reporting “We are watching financial markets very carefully and with a high sense of alert, and if necessary we must take prompt action in a broad sense.  This is not a problem for Japan alone like in the 1990s. The economic malaise in the United States and Europe is affecting the Japanese economy. I think that's also playing a big role in currency markets and share prices. So I hope that the U.S. and European authorities will take measures to deal with it. And Japan will also do what it must do.” Japan has not overtly intervened in the FX market since March 2004 and prior to that, it spent some US$ 394 billion trying to slow the yen’s appreciation.   Bank of Japan today reported financial conditions have become tighter even with the overnight call rate near zero per cent, noting “Given the sharp deterioration in real economic activity, the stimulative effects from the very low overnight call rate is becoming increasingly limited.”  This suggests the central bank may resort to additional credit easing measures following its recent announcements that it will purchase corporate bonds and commercial paper and expand eligible collateral.  Data released in Japan overnight saw the November all-industries index off 2.3% m/m.  The Nikkei 225 stock index lost 3.81% to close at ¥7,745.25.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the ¥104.15 level.  The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥112.50 level and was capped around the ¥116.05 level.  The British pound came off vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested bids around the ¥118.85 level while the Swiss franc while the Swiss franc moved lower vis-à-vis the yen and tested bids around the ¥75.40 level.  In Chinese news, U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Geithner looks poised to have his nomination approved by the U.S. Senate.


The British pound extended recent losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today
as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.3500 figure and was capped around the $1.3900 figure.  Cable reached its lowest level in 23 years as official data confirmed the U.K. economy contracted at its fastest pace in nearly three decades at the end of 2008, pushing the U.K. economy into recession for the first time since 1991.  The economy contracted 1.5% in Q4 2008, the largest decline since 1980, and worsened from the 0.6% pullback in Q3.  Bank of England will likely be forced to reduce interest rates further in the coming months, possibly as low as zero per cent.  For all of 2008, the U.K. economy expanded just 0.7%, the weakest annual growth level since 1992.  Some economists now expect the U.K. economy may weaken more than 1.25% in 2009 and employment should top two million this year.  Notably, the U.K. services sector contracted 1.0% in Q4 and industrial production suffered its largest fall since 1980.  Other data released in the U.K. today saw December retail sales climb 1.6% m/m.  Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.4220 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.9470 level and was supported around the ₤0.9335 level.


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