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Thursday January 13, 2005 - 15:56:26 GMT
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FX Market Commentary and Analysis (13 January 2005)

The euro depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3200 figure after early European dealing saw the pair test the $1.3265 level. A brief rally back above the $1.3250 level during early North American dealing was short-lived. Data released in the U.S. today saw December headline retail sales gain 1.2% but the ex-autos component came in softer-than-expected at +0.3%. The headline gain represented the largest since September’s 1.6% rise and the 2004 annualized rate was up 8%, the largest rise since 1999. Other data released today saw overall prices for imported goods decline at their sharpest rate in nearly two years last month, dropping 1.3%. Also, weekly initial jobless claims climbed 10,000 to 367,000 last week while the four-week moving average climbed 12,750 to 344,000. European Central Bank convened today and opted to not change monetary policy, as expected. Last month, ECB President Trichet indicated ECB policymakers discussed the possibility of a tighter monetary policy. Today, Trichet reported “underlying domestic inflationary pressures are contained but updside risks to price stability over the medium term need to be monitored closely.” Data released in the eurozone today saw German GDP gain 1.7% in 2004, just below the government’s forecast of 1.8%. Euro bids are seen around the $1.3180 level.


The yen was little changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥102.85 level during European dealing after earlier trading around the ¥102.25 level. North American pushed the pair back below the ¥102.50 level after the release of unimpressive U.S. economic numbers. Bank of Japan Governor Fukui spoke overnight and said “the economy is likely to keep the recovery trend, although there will remain a negative effect of inventory adjustment in the IT-related sectors in the near-term.” He cited weakness in “production activities” but added “corporate investment is increasing and consumer spending keeps its steady undertone being back by the improvement in employment conditions.” Fukui left no doubt about Bank of Japan Policy Board’s meeting next week, reiterating the central bank will not end its ultra-accommodative credit policy until the core consumer price index is at zero per cent or above on an annualized basis for a number of months. Ministry of Finance’s Hosokawa said Japanese monetary authorities are “on high alert” regarding FX developments and will “take bold action against rapid moves.” This follows Tanigaki’s similar pronouncement after yesterday’s U.S. record trade deficit data. Asian countries are under increasing fire from U.S. and European officials about the artificial devaluation of their currencies. G7 finance ministers will convene in London in February thus Japan may be reluctant to conduct overt yen-selling intervention before then. Data released in Japan overnight saw foreign investors remain as net buyers of Japanese equities in December for the seventh consecutive month. Cumulatively, forign investors’ net purchases of Japanese equities aggregated ¥7.65 trillion in 2004, the third-highest recorded annual total. Similarly, foreign investors purchased ¥5.25 trillion of net Japanese bonds in 2004. Other data released overnight saw Japan’s November current account surplus fall 19.3% y/y to ¥1.20 trillion, the first decline in seventeen months, while the trade surplus receded 35.2% to ¥753.2 billion. The Nikkei 225 stock index shed 0.83% to close at ¥11,358.22 today. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥103.00 figure. The euro came off vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥135.20 level after failing to get through the ¥136.20 level during a brief spike in early North American dealing. Euro bids are cited around the ¥134.45 level. In Chinese news, China reported its foreign direct investment (FDI) reached US$ 153.48 billion in 2004, up from US$ 115.07 billion in 2003. Also, it was reported that M2 money supply rose 14.6% y/y to RMB 25.3 trillion in 2004, around 5% less than 2003’s final value. This reflects People’s Bank of China’s monetary tightening in 2004.

The British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.8805 level after running out of steam around the $1.8930 level. Minor stops were hit above the $1.8910 level during the pair’s move higher but cable didn’t want to test technical resistance seen around the $1.8940 level. Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep monetary policy unchanged today, as expected, with the repo rate remaining 4.75%. Policymakers discussed an interest rate cut at last month’s MPC meeting thus traders await the minutes from today’s meeting to see if they inched closer to easing credit conditions. NIESR today predicted the U.K. economy grew by only 0.4% in Q4 with total 2004 growth of 3.0%. Data released today saw the manufacturing sector weaken in November with output off 0.1% m/m. This means the sector is flirting with recession and it has fallen for five consecutive months. This is not insignificant because manufacturing output accounts for some 17% of U.K. GDP. Some 112,000 manufacturing jobs have also been lost in the sector over the previous twelve months. Other data released today saw high street inflation fall to a record low in December as the BRC reported its shop price index fell to -1.41% from 0.94% in November and -1.37% in October. It was also reported that November construction orders gained 3.0% y/y in November. Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.8805 level. The euro gained marginally vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.7035 level and was supported around the ₤0.6995 level.


The Swiss franc lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1735 level and was supported around the CHF 1.1665 level. Technicians note that the 55-day moving average around the CHF 1.1630 level held yesterday. Swiss National Bank’s Hildebrand spoke about liquidity issues this week and appeared with ECB’s Issing when Issing was critical of Asian countries for not liberalizing their capital accounts. Dollar offers are seen around the CHF 1.1750 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5465 level and remained capped around the CHF 1.5500 figure.


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