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Thursday January 20, 2005 - 22:02:55 GMT -

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Forex: US Firms Begin Repatriating Dollars

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By Kathy Lien, Chief Strategist of

· US Firms Begin Repatriating Dollars
· Weaker Philly Fed Survey Fails To Curb Dollar Strength
· Bankruptcies Hit 13 Year Low In Japan


The US dollar continues to firm against the Euro, trading as low as 1.2921 during the European trading session. The markets remained focused on President Bush’s Inauguration and have found respite in the lack of any geopolitical risks. News that Johnson & Johnson will be repatriating $11 billion of its past earnings from foreign activities back into the US in an attempt to take advantage of the reduced taxes offered under Bush’s American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 has spurred continued optimism for the dollar. Pfizer may also be following suit, as they are considering repatriating $38 billion in past earnings. These firms will enjoy a reduced tax rate of 5.25% on these earnings, compared to the normal 35%. It is estimated that US corporations are holding $500billion of foreign earnings abroad, of which 30% could be repatriated this year. Meanwhile although inflation ticked higher during the month of December in the Eurozone, the ECB remains unconcerned. Their January monthly bulletin reiterates ECB President Trichet’s dovish outlook on short-term inflation pressures. However even though oil prices have retraced somewhat, reducing near term inflation, the longer CPI remains above the ECB’s 2% target, the longer the ECB will have its hands tied.


The rally in the dollar occurred primarily during the European trading session. Mixed data in the US failed to have a significant impact on the greenback. Leading indicators increased 0.2% during the month of December, right in line with expectations. A rallying stock market and improving labor market has helped to spur overall growth. However, the market attributes minimal weight to the leading indicators report since all of its components are known in advance and are usually already factored into prices. The Philly Fed index on the other hand is more important, though the deterioration in the report only induced a modest 20-pip sell-off in the dollar against the euro. The components from the report were mixed. New orders plummeted but the number of employees and the employment outlook improved. Comments from Fed Presidents continue to hit the wires. Poole repeated his optimistic outlook for the US economy and that although inflation remains “well-contained,” the Fed may need to move more aggressively in the future. Fed President Yellen, who is a non-voter on the other hand, was a bit more dovish than her colleagues, noting that inflation remains “well-contained” and that risks are “well-balanced.”


The British pound rallied for the third consecutive day despite critical comments from Bank of England Governor King. He spoke directly about the recent up tick in inflation and reports that the housing market may be stabilizing. King warned that it would be “foolish to put much weight on any one month’s figure.” He said this is also true for retail sales, which is due for release tomorrow. This suggests that retail sales could be much higher than the current consensus forecast of 0.3% m/m growth. December is traditionally a period of strong consumer spending. King is clearly trying to talk down any optimism that may have spurred from recent data. However, this still has a minimal impact on monetary policy. The Bank of England will continue to keep rates on hold at their February monetary policy meeting.


The dollar gained strength against the Japanese yen to the highest level seen this week. Unsurprisingly, the dollar is moving the pair as fundamentals diverge from yen price action. Bankruptcies hit a 13 year low in the month of December, confirming continual improvements in Japan’s problem with non-performing loans. Only 11 publicly traded companies went under last year, down by 8. Meanwhile, the OECD encourages Japan to keep interest rates at zero until consumer prices increase by 1%. This is similar to the central bank’s current mentality, which is to keep monetary policy accommodative until there are clear signs that inflation is on a solid upward trend. Oil prices also receded, although the relationship between the yen and oil has broken down recently. There are also rumors that China may be announcing a revaluation of 5% for the Renminbi after the Chinese Year.


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