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Wednesday February 16, 2005 - 15:05:55 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (16 February 2005)

The euro extended recent gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3060 level, its highest level since 2 February. The pair spiked to intraday highs on news of a possible missile attack in southern Iran. Traders dumped dollars on the premise that even if the U.S. was not involved, any military action in Iran would commit the U.S. military to the Middle East longer than is currently anticipated. Iranian television later suggested the “attack” may have been a fallen part from an Iranian airplane but the dollar had already been driven to daily lows. Technically, traders are now eyeing the $1.3082 resistance level, above which stops are said to be in place. All eyes are on the U.S. Senate this morning as Fed Chairman Greenspan will deliver his semi-annual testimony. Key themes include the speed and size of future Fed interest rate hikes, the U.S.’s ability to fund the current account deficit, and the Fed’s reaction to President Bush’s latest fiscal budget. Data released in the U.S. today saw January housing starts up 4.7% to 2.15 million units – a 21-year high – while December’s data were upwardly revised and housing permits were also strong. Data released later in the session saw January industrial production unchanged following December’s 0.7% gain while capacity utilization printed at 79.0%. Both numbers failed to meet expectations. In eurozone news, EU’s Alumnia today intimated a revision to the contentious Stability and Growth Pact may be possible by March and said eurozone countries have an optimistic forecast of 2.3% growth for 2005 – above the EU’s 2.0% forecast. Other data released today saw France’s current account deficit reach €1.2 billion in December, up from a revised ¬-€ 266 million in November. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2930/ 1.2890 levels.


The yen depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥105.20 level and was supported around the ¥104.40 level. The pair’s move higher was precipitated by Japanese data that saw the economy reduced by 0.1% q/q in the three months to December, taking the economy to an annualized growth rate of 0.5%. The quarterly growth rate was less-than-expected and means the Japanese economy is in a technical recession. The July – September quarter’s growth rate was also downwardly revised to -0.3% q/q from +0.1%. Economy minister Takenaka downplayed the significance of the data saying “Current conditions are mostly in line with our view of the economy. It (the economic weakness) is largely leveling off. We expect external demand to recover along with overseas economies. As a result, the Japanese economy should move out of its current long plateau.” Despite these data, the dollar was not able to advance through the ¥105.25 level, a key short-term resistance level related to the recent ¥106.85/ 104.30 range. Other data released in Japan today saw the December index of leading economic indicators upwardly revised to 45.5 from the preliminary reading of 40.0, below the “boom-or-bust” 50.0 level. Bank of Japan’s Policy Board began its two-day monetary policy meeting overnight and most traders expect the central bank to approve a temporary change in the current account deposit target that has guided Japan’s quantitative easing policy for a couple of years. This will likely be a technical development and can be attributed to improving segments of the Japanese economy. In other BoJ news, it appears that economist Kiyohiko Nishimura will replace Policy Board member Kazuo Ueda on or about 7 April. The Nikkei 225 stock index reacted to the news of Japan’s recession by losing 0.38% to close at ¥11,601.68. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥105.25/55 levels. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥137.05 level and was supported around the ¥135.95 level. In Chinese news, it was reported that China’s January crude oil imports fell 24.1% y/y to 7.8 million tons. U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs released a report today that says China’s continued large trade surpluses and January’s US$ 6.5 billion surplus means the yuan revaluation story will continue to be topical in the markets.

The British pound moved sharply lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.8805 level after capping out around the $1.8970 level overnight, its highest level since 4 December. Major stops were reached below the $1.8890 level, pushing the pair to daily lows just above the key short-term technical support level around the $1.8797 level. Bank of England released its Quarterly Inflation Report today and upwardly revised its forecast for inflation. The central bank said its key CPI measure will likely “pass through” the 2.0% level in 2006 before moving higher and traders attributed this as an indication the BoE may decide to tighten monetary policy further this year. The BoE said its current outlook for inflation “is a shade higher” than its November projections and added there is a “range of views” from policymakers – central bank-speak for some remaining hawkishness on the Policy Board. BoE Governor King said consumer spending remains the “key risk” to growth and inflation projections and added it remains “highly uncertain.” Data released in the U.K. today saw the claimant count measure of unemployment fall by 11,000 in January to 813,200, meaning the claimant count has now decreased three consecutive months. This is the latest evidence of how tight the U.K. labour market remains at present and the claimant count is now at its lowest level since 1975. European Commission’s Alumnia stoked some EMU accession fires today saying the U.K. would need to “spend at least two years in the exchange rate mechanism (before adopting the euro).” Cable bids are cited around the $1.8790 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.6925 level and was supported around the ₤0.6865 level.


The Swiss franc gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback receded to the CHF 1.1830 level, its lowest level since 28 January. Escalating geopolitical risks involving Iran, Syria, and North Korea are likely to benefit the Swiss franc as a safe haven play. Chartists are eyeing the CHF 1.1745 level as the next big technical support for the pair. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1985 level. The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5450 level while the British pound fell sharply to test bids around the CHF 2.2310 level.


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