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Monday May 24, 2004 - 22:18:22 GMT -

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Dollar Lower on Record Crude Oil Prices

· Crude oil closes at record high, pressuring USD and JPY
· No language on FX markets in weekend G7 statement
· GBP supported by mortgage lender calls for BoE rate hikes


The dollar continues to be led by oil as last week’s choppy trading gave way to a concerted move up in EURUSD. After trading slightly lower in London, crude oil surged to record highs during the New York session. As a result, EURUSD made a run at 1.2030, trading as high as 1.2026 before coming off in the afternoon. Despite Saudi Arabia’s apparent intentions to boost oil production unilaterally, OPEC formally deferred any production decisions until its June 3rd meeting in Beirut, sending oil higher. Providing further support to the single currency, ECB President Trichet commented today that the current interest rate environment in the region is “exceptionally favorable,” signaling that near-term monetary easing is not in the offing. In Germany, the government revised higher its March industrial production figures to –1.1% from –2.3%, a positive sign but still an indication of overall weakness in production. Tuesday’s German Ifo survey will be a key data point, expected to come in flat to lower after last week’s disappointing ZEW reading.


Of last weekend’s two event risks—G7 finance ministers and informal OPEC meeting—only the latter had a significant market-moving effect. The statement released from the G7 meeting made no mention of the foreign exchange market—a non-event seen as implicit approval of ongoing calls for currency “flexibility” outlined in Dubai last year. OPEC’s decision to delay its decision on production sent oil sharply higher and the dollar lower during US trading. USDCHF fell from a London session high of 1.2876 to 1.2760 by New York’s afternoon. While the Fed tightening story looks to have run its course in the market, continued highs in crude oil could further pressure the dollar near-term. This week sees the key release of Switzerland’s KOF leading indicator, as well as data on payrolls and Q1 GDP. The improving economic picture the Swiss data are expected to paint could lend additional credence for SNB rate hikes in the second half of 2004.


Cable enjoyed a steady move higher during the New York session, trading up to trendline resistance at 1.7940 before heading lower in late afternoon. As with the other majors, record crude oil prices helped lead the pound higher against the dollar as fears of diminished economic activity in the US continue to grow. Also helping to support GBP, a weekend report from the UK’s Council of Mortgage Lenders suggested that the Bank of England failed to act decisively in curbing the awesome recent run-up in house prices, and in its analysis concluded that interest rates will need to double in order to reduce house price inflation by half. On the back of Friday’s record mortgage lending numbers, the market has moved to discount the risks of more aggressive near-term rate rises by the central bank. Tuesday’s release of Q1 business investment data should provide additional direction on the path of interest rates.


Breaking out of its 30-pip London trading range, USDJPY strengthened marginally on oil price rise concerns, closing just below the 113 level. While surging crude prices represent a structural negative for the US economy, for Japan, a country whose proportional energy imports exceed that of the US, the effect is even more acute. Indeed, in a weekend press conference, Finance Minister Tanigaki observed that the continued climb in oil prices could act as a deterrent to Japanese growth. With the yen offered against the dollar and EURUSD moving higher, EURJPY spiked sharply, trading as high as 135.80. Looking to Tuesday, the Dow’s failure to close above 10,000 Monday potentially bodes ill for the Nikkei, a key source of recent JPY support.


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