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Friday January 28, 2005 - 15:11:37 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (28 January 2005)

The euro gained a little bit of ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3080 level and was supported around the $1.3020 level. The pair moved to intraday highs during North American dealing after the release of preliminary Q4 U.S. GDP data that fell short of expectations. The economy is estimated to have expanded at a 3.1% annual rate in the October-to-December quarter, down from the annualized 4.0% rate of Q3. Most forecasts called for growth of 3.5% and the slower growth was said to be attributable to the U.S.’s wide trade deficit; it reduced GDP by 1.73%. These preliminary data mean the U.S. economy grew around 4.4% for all of 2004 in what would be the best showing since 1999. It was also reported that the GDP deflator rise 2.5% in Q4, lifted partially by strong energy prices and above Q3’s 1.3% price gains. Notably, consumer spending expanded at a solid 4.6% annualized rate, up from Q3’s strong 5.1% rate. For all of 2004, consumer spending gained 3.8%, the most expansion since 2000. Additionally, business spending had a positive effect on GDP growth with spending up some 14.9%. For all of 2004, business spending on equipment and software surged by 13.4%, the highest rate of increase since 1997. Many traders are reluctant to put on new positions ahead of this weekend’s interim elections in Iraq and OPEC meeting. Another showdown of sorts seems to be materializing between the U.S. and Europe over the U.S.’s mammoth deficits. German deputy finance minister Koch-Weser has alluded to the U.S.’s budget deficit while U.S. Treasury Secretary Snow has countered saying he will stress the “paramount importance of higher growth rates” so the U.S.’s imbalances can be reduced. These remarks are indicative of a stalemate of sorts and it is therefore likely that very little of new interest will emerge from the G7 meeting. Data released in the eurozone today saw EMU-12 ME money supply climb 6.4% y/y in December, up from 6.0% in November. Other data released today saw French December PPI off 0.4% m/m and up 3.0% y/y while December unemployment was unchanged at 9.9% in France. Traders will closely watch the Federal Open Market Committee meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday with most market participants expecting a 25bps tightening by the Fed. January U.S. labour market data will also be released next Friday. Euro bids are seen around the US$ 1.3015 level.


The yen lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today after the pair made a volatile move lower during early Australasian dealing. The greenback spiked lower around 80 pips in short order to around the ¥102.40 level and hit stops below the ¥102.75 level. The move lower was fueled by remarks from a Chinese official at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland who indicated China was eager to liberalize its yuan currency. Many data were released at the beginning of today’s session in Japan. First, it was reported that December salaried household spending fell 3.8% y/y. Second, the December unemployment rate fell to 4.4% from 4.5% in November, a six-year low. Third, Tokyo-area core CPI was off 0.9% in January while nationwide December core CPI climbed 0.1%. Fourth, December industrial output fell 1.2% m/m and was up 1.4% y/y. Traders are closely watching all of these economic data to glean any clues about whether or not businesses are hiring more workers and if deflation seems to be decelerating and accelerating consumers’ spending decisions. MoF’s Watanabe indicated he does not expect there will be a change in exchange rate verbiage in next weekend’s G7 communiqué with policymakers favouring the Boca Raton statement about “excess volatility and disorderly movements” in exchange rates from a year ago. Traders are carefully watching this weekend’s OPEC meeting, especially given the severe cold streak in parts of the eastern U.S. The Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.18% today to close at ¥11,320.58. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥103.60 level. The euro spiked lower to the ¥133.80 level during early Australasian dealing but later recovered and tested offers above the ¥135.00 figure during North American dealing. In Chinese news, a Chinese official shook the markets by saying now was the time for China to move towards a more flexible FX regime. People’s Bank of China officials quickly poured cold water on the idea saying the yuan would remain stable for now. Later in the day, another official suggested the yuan policy may not be changed for several months, dampening speculation that a policy shift will happen imminently after the G7 meeting in London next weekend. Traders are waiting to see if Chinese finance minister Jin Renging will attend the G7 meeting and traders noted that Chinese Vice Premier Li Shenglin and PBOC Deputy Governor Li Ruogu will both attend the meeting.

The British pound could not sustain intraday gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested the US$ 1.8930 level before moving to the $1.8810 level during early North American dealing. Data released in the U.K. today saw December mortgage approvals by U.K. banks slide to ₤11.5 billion from ₤13.2 billion in November – the latest evidenced of a slowdown in the U.K. property market. The number of loan approvals and the average house purchase loans level both receded. Cable bids are cited around the $1.8830 level. The euro moved marginally higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.6930 level and was supported around the ₤0.6895 level.


The Swiss franc weakened modestly vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1880 level and was supported around the CHF 1.1815 level. Data released in Switzerland today saw the January KOF index of leading indicators redede to 0.42 from a revised 0.50 in December. These data suggest the Swiss economy may be softer in six months’ time and lower y/y growth through H1 2005 is therefore expected. SECO, the Swiss economy ministry, today reduced its 2005 GDP forecast to 1.5% from a previous level of 2.0% and cited continued U.S. dollar weakness, weaker EMU-12 economic growth, and less-than-favourable labour market conditions as drags on growth. SECO also predicted 2005 inflation will be around 0.8% y/y higher with GDP growth around 1.8% in 2006. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1910 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5480 level and was supported around the CHF 1.5430 level.


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