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Monday January 31, 2005 - 15:28:01 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (31 January 2005)

The euro was little changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3050 level during early North American dealing after trading at an intraday low around the $1.2975 level during European dealing. This week is shaping up to be one of the busiest in recent memories for the FX markets. First, OPEC convened over the weekend and opted to not change production levels despite the recent cold snap across the eastern United States. Second, Iraq held its first multi-party elections in nearly 50 years yesterday and this event was deemed a success by the international community. Third, the Federal Open Market Committee will announce its interest rate decision on Wednesday with the market anticipating a 25bps monetary tightening. Fourth, the G7 will convene in London this weekend and while there will likely be no ground-breaking announcements regarding China, Europe and the U.S. are likely to snipe at each other about the U.S.’s record deficits. Fifth, the January U.S. non-farm payrolls number will be released on Friday, capping a relatively busy week for U.S. data releases. Sixth, President Bush will give his State of the Union address midweek and traders are curious to see if he talk about reining in fiscal spending and be as geopolitically hawkish as he was in his recent Inaugural address. Data released in the U.S. today saw December personal income and spending print at +3.7% and +0.8%, respectively. Also, the headline personal consumption expenditures number printed down 0.1% while the “core” PCE print came in unchanged. PCE is said to be a favourite inflation barometer of the Fed and the lack of inflation may mean the Fed will retain its “measured pace” language in this Wednesday’s FOMC statement. Other data released today saw December new home sales up 0.1% to 1.098 million units while the inventory of unsold homes on the market reached its highest level in 31 years. Also, the January Chicago PMI printed at 62.4. Data released in the eurozone today saw German wholesale sales off a real 2.9% in November and off 0.4% y/y while January French consumer confidence came in at -25, unchanged from December. Also, the EMU-12 business climate indicator receded to 0.40 in January from an upwardly revised 0.44 in December. The European Commission will release a report on Wednesday that will show Italy is close to breaching its Maastrict budget deficit limits in 2005 and 2006. Interestingly, Microsoft’s Bill Gates joined his friend, Warren Buffett, in publicly criticizing the U.S. dollar. Euro bids are seen around the $1.2970 level.


The yen gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥103.40 level and was capped around the ¥103.80 level. Stops were reached below the ¥103.55 level during European dealing, pushing the pair to intraday lows, and the ¥103.60 level capped a retracement higher during early North American dealing. The yen opened weaker following weekend comments from a People’s Bank of China official regarding China’s unwillingness to allow the yuan to freely float at this time. Speculation that China would announce provisions to liberalize its capital account at this weekend’s G7 meeting have seen the yen gain ground on the premise it would force other Asian currencies to become less artificially devalued. Japan’s Ministry of Finance announced it did not intervene in the market between 29 December and 27 January, meaning the government has not overtly sold yen in the market for close to ten months. Data released in Japan overnight saw December housing starts fell 2.0% y/y, the first decline in six months. The FX markets are clearly expecting a volatile week as one-week dollar/ yen implied volatility is now around 11.6%, the highest level since early January. The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 0.59% to close at ¥11,387.59. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥104.20 level. The euro weakened marginally vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥134.50 level and was capped around the ¥135.10 level. In Chinese news, People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Li Ruogu spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos this weekend and said China will not be revaluing the yuan anytime soon. He said there are no signs the Chinese economy is significantly overheating and criticized the market for believing a Chinese revaluation will solve the world’s economic ills. He added “The world economic imbalance is attributable to many reasons, but not the exchange rate. China has not the capacity to address that so-called imbalance. We are not willing to do it, and we are not able to do it.” His remark ended speculation of a major announcement from China next weekend in London but the central bank also announced it will be carrying out interest rate reforms in conjunction with improved corporate governance. On Friday, U.S. Treasury undersecretary Taylor said China’s peg “makes things more difficult for the Chinese economy” while legendary FX trader George Soros this weekend said it is not a good idea to “push them into it.”

The British pound came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable fell to the US$1.8785 level and was capped around the $1.8880 level. Stops were triggered below the $1.8800 figure during North American dealing as the pair slid through the 100-hour moving average and tested Friday’s low but dealers lifted the pair back to the $1.8880 level in short order. Data released in the U.K. today saw the CBI report January retail sales slumped to their lowest level since 1999. The CBI report probably portends a negative January retail sales report and would follow a December print that saw retail sales near 25-year lows. Other data released overnight saw the GfK consumer confidence number hit it highest level since November 2002 with the headline index climbing four points to +1 in January from -3 in December. Cable bids are seen around the $1.8770/20 levels. The euro was little-changed vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.6920 level and was supported around the ₤0.6895 level.


The Swiss franc retraced intraday losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1945 level and then fell back to the CHF 1.1855 level during North American dealing. Stops were triggered above the CHF 1.1925 level during European dealing and then below the CHF 1.1880 level during early North American dealing. Traders await January PMI data tomorrow and consumer price data on Thursday. Dollar offers are seen around the CHF 1.1970 level. The euro could not sustain a break above the CHF 1.1500 figure and fell back to the CHF 1.5480 level during North American dealing while the British pound paid the CHF 2.2465 level.


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