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Friday January 21, 2005 - 12:27:52 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (21 January 2005)

The euro briefly tested offers above the psychologically-important US$ 1.3000 figure today before settling back to the $1.2975 level during early North American dealing. Bids supported the pair earlier in the day just above the $1.2930 level. Traders await the release of today’s University of Michigan U.S. consumer sentiment index for January. San Francisco Fed President Yellen spoke late yesterday and said the Fed has dispatched all of its policymakers with “trumpets and megaphones” to warn the markets of higher rates. Fed policymakers have voted to raise interest rates by 25bps since June and the benchmark federal funds target rate now stands at 2.25%. It is notable that U.S. interest rates are now higher than corresponding interest rates in the eurozone, meaning U.S. dollar holders now enjoy a positive interest rate differential. Yellen added the “most likely outcome over the next year or so is that inflation will remain well-contained” and her speech focused on forces that have been keeping inflation in-check. Minneapolis Fed President Stern and Fed Governor Bies round at the busy week of Fedspeak with remarks today. Traders are still puzzled by the relatively low yields in the U.S. bond market where the yield spread between the federal funds target rate and ten-year U.S. Treasury note is less than 200 basis points, on the low end of the historical spectrum. Recent Fed comments make it clear the Fed is trying to engineer higher market rates as some officials have publicly said the Fed would not hesitate to tighten policy by 50bps at one shot if warranted. Data released in the eurozone today saw December French final CPI up 0.2% m/m from the preliminary 0.1% print while December French household consumption moved 0.2% higher, defying expectations of a 0.8% fall. IN other eurozone news, a source indicated the German government reported it sees 2005 GDP growth around 1.6%. Euro bids are cited around the $1.2890 level.


The yen lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥103.80 level and was supported just below the ¥103.40 level. The pair was mostly bid from the Australasian opening with traders shrugging off a modest 0.4% m/m and 2.7% y/y gain in the November tertiary index of service sector spending. It was also reported that the all-industries index rallied 0.3% m/m and 2.6% y/y. Economy minister Takenaka declared Japan officially past the “post-bubble era” and called for “aggressive reform.” He also said the economy is moving towards being driven by private demand, but traders know that deflation is still the most serious problem gripping the Japanese economy. The government today reported it sees 2005 growth around a real 1.6% and nominal 2.0%. Prime Minister Koizumi today said the economy is recovering “on am improvement in corporate earnings and an increase in capital and consumer spending.” Interestingly, the government is predicting inflation of 0.1% for the fiscal year ending March 2006 as compared to current estimates of a 0.1% fall for the fiscal year ending March 2005. The Nikkei 225 stock index came off 0.41% to close at ¥11,238.37. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥104.20 level. The euro climbed higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥134.85 level and was supported around the ¥133.80 level. In Chinese news, it was reported that China’s crude oil imports reached a record 12.1 million tons in December, moving 2004 imports to 122.7 million tons, a nearly 35% y/y increase. China is now the world’s second largest consumer of oil.

The British pound depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.8615 level and was capped around the $1.8735 level during Australasian dealing. December retail sales came off 1.0% m/m and pushed sterling lower in what represented the largest decline since 1981. These data mean retail sales were quite poor during the all-important U.K. holiday period. Traders should not jump to conclusions, however, because many U.K. consumers are said to have delayed their shopping until after the Christmas holiday and anecdotal evidence from U.K. retailers has been mixed. Bank of England Governor King prepared the markets for a less-than-stellar number last night, saying it would be “foolish to put too much weight” on one month’s data and reminded the markets the central bank evaluates longer-term trends in setting monetary policy. Traders were also surprised by fresh mortgage lending data released today that saw CML December lending rise by ₤9.8 billion, up from November’s ₤9.1 billion. The BBA today reported December mortgage lending by major U.K. banks escalated to its highest level since September, up ₤5.2 billion from November’s ₤4.2 billion level. The BSA also reported a marginal increase in mortgage lending for the same period today. Other data released today showered doubts over the tenability of the U.K.’s budget position. It was reported that public sector net cash borrowing printed at ₤5.2 billion for December, meaning the 2004/2005 budget deficit is already higher than Chancellor Brown’s full-year forecast. The annualized deficit now stands at its highest level since 1993/1994. Cable bids are cited around the $1.8610 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the cross tested offers around the ₤0.6980 level and was supported around the ₤0.6920 level.


The Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1965 level and remained bids above the CHF 1.1875 level after opening right around the CHF 1.1900 figure. There were no significant data released in Switzerland today. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.1850 level. The euro stopped just short of piercing the CHF 1.5500 figure while the British pound challenged offers around the CHF 2.2325 level.


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