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Wednesday January 19, 2005 - 15:52:17 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (19 January 2005)

The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3120 level and remained bid above the psychologically-important $1.3000 figure. Data released in the U.S. today was mixed to positive news for the greenback as weekly initial jobless claims tumbled 48,000 to 319,000 while housing starts were up +10.9% last month. December consumer price inflation was off 0.1% m/m and up 3.3% y/y while the “core” rate was up +0.2% m/m and +2.2% y/y. Many Fed speakers have been on the wires over the past couple of days. Earlier today, Fed Governor Bernanke today said “the direction of monetary policy moves depends on how consumer spending reacts to productivity developments” and was fairly optimistic about productivity gains. Cleveland Fed President Pianalto yesterday said momentum has “clearly shifted away from disinflation” and added preemptive tightening is better “than finding out the hard way – for example, through a deterioration in inflation expectations or in the inflation picture itself – that we had maintained an overly accommodative stance for far too long.” In contrast, Minneapolis Fed President Stern said he doesn’t “see factors that lead (him) to believe there will be an appreciable acceleration of inflation in 2005.” Philadelphia Fed President Santomero predicted inflation will remain “well contained” in 2005 and added he sees monthly job creation between 150,000 and 200,000. The major question on traders’ minds now is whether the Fed will include or abandon the “measured pace” clause that has become commonplace in its FOMC statements when policymakers convene in early February. Some traders are taking a second look at yesterday’s TIC data that showed foreign investors spent US$ 81 billion purchasing U.S. assets in November, covering the record US$ 60.3 billion trade gap that month. Some analysts are saying these data are not an accurate representation of foreign appetite for U.S. assets because the cheaper dollar made such purchases more palatable for foreign central banks. They also note there is a seasonal component to the data and some suggest the seasonally-adjusted data were probably closer to October’s shortfall. Euro bids are seen around the $1.3000 figure.


The yen retraced most of its losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥102.65 level and remained supported just above the ¥102.00 figure. Finance minister Tanigaki verbally intervened overnight saying Japan “will take decisive action to counter unjustified movements” in the yen’s exchange rate. Notably, the government released its monthly economic report overnight and added foreign exchange rates to an existing list of significant risk factors. Tanigaki said the economy is in an “adjustment phase” but added this is part of an “upward climb.” Bank of Japan Governor Fukui also verbally intervened saying “ I believe that recent movements in the forex market have become unstable, and we will monitor closely whether these developments will have any psychological and real impact on the Japanese economy.” Fukui also said G7 policymakers are likely to reaffirm their support for “orderly” FX moves “more strongly” when they convene in London on 4-5 February. The markets have a perception that policymakers will up the pressure on Asian currency regimes to become more market-oriented. Bank of Japan’s Policy Board voted unanimously overnight to keep monetary policy unchanged and Fukui again said a period of year-on-year CPI at or above zero per cent is one prerequisite for unwinding Japan’s long-standing quantitative easing policy. BoJ also issued a monthly report today and it marked for first time in three months the central bank has kept its assessment unchanged. The Nikkei 225 stock index shed 0.16% to close at ¥11,405.34. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥101.85 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥134.40 level and was supported right around the ¥133.00 figure. In Chinese news, People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou said “one consideration…this year…is to gradually make the (yuan) exchangeable.” He also said the growth in FX reserves in 2004 was “a little bit faster (than 2003)” but “not unreasonable.”

The British pound extended recent gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.8825 level and was supported around the $1.8625 level. Data released in the U.K. today evidenced a modest 4.4% increase in pay growth in the three months to November. Other data saw unemployment claimant counts recede 6,200 in December to 826,300, the lowest level since July 1975, while the claimant count unemployment rate remained unchanged at 2.7% from the previous three months. The ILO number of unemployed persons climbed 13,000 to 1.4 million with the unemployment rate remaining steady at 4.7%. The question on traders’ minds is how this increase in wage pressures will affect Bank of England monetary policymaking, if at all. Cable bids are cited around the $1.8740 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the British pound as the cross tested bids around the ₤0.6945 level and was capped around the ₤0.6990 level.


The Swiss franc gained modest ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.1750 level after failing to get through the CHF 1.1865 level. The pair was strong across the board but sterling moved higher on the cross to the CHF 2.2190 level. Dollar bids are seen around the CHF 1.1720 level. The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5400 figure after failing to get through the CHF 1.5450 level.


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