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Thursday February 17, 2005 - 14:54:48 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (17 February 2005)

The euro came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3015 level but only after the pair tested offers around the $1.3075 level, a two-week high. The pair bounced back from early weakness yesterday following Fed Chairman Greenspan’s Senate testimony in which he did little to dispel the view the Fed will continue to tighten policy at a “measured pace” but said real interest rates remain “fairly low.” Regarding the current account deficit, Greenspan said the U.S. has the flexibility to “diffuse” the deficit “without undue negative economic effects” and said foreign central banks are not heavily selling the dollar, adding “the extent of (foreign central banks’) holding remains very heavy for dollars.” Concerning economic growth, Greenspan said the year began “at a reasonable good pace with inflation and inflation expectations well-anchored.” Greenspan characterized the tight spread between short-term and long-term U.S. debt a “conundrum” and said business managers continue to be cautious about hiring new workers and cost control. One very interesting event was the Fed’s released of a forecast yesterday that predicted inflation will remain in the 1.5% - 1.75% over the next two years on its preferred core PCE measure. While this does not represent an explicit inflation target, it is essentially a de facto inflation target. Many Fed-watchers believe the Fed will move to an inflation target-based system after Greenspan’s tenure at the Fed ends in 2006. The Fed’s forecasts also foresees growth of 3.5% - 4.0% in 2005 and 3.5% in 2006. Greenspan will testify today in front of the U.S. House of Representatives. In other Fed news, Fed Governor Bernanke is favoured to replace outgoing Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Greg Mankiw. Data released in the U.S. today saw January import prices climb +0.9% while the ex-petroleum measure was up +0.2%. Export prices were up +0.7% and it was also reported that weekly initial jobless claims fell 2,000 to 302,000, possibly portending an improvement in February non-farm payrolls. Outgoing ECB policymaker Padoa-Schioppa, whose position may be replaced by Italy’s Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi, voiced concern with the increase in EMU-12 real estate prices. German Economy Minister Clement said the German government expects an increase in jobless numbers in February, meaning the number of Germans not working will probably remain above the 5.0 million level. EU finance ministers today approved disciplinary measures against Greece that would force the country to get its deficit below 3% of GDP by 2006 while French Finance Minister Gaymard said Luxembourg’s Juncker is likely to promote a proposal next month to reform the contentious Growth and Stability Pact. Euro bids are cited around the $1.2930/ $1.2885 levels.


The yen lost additional ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥105.75 level and was supported around the ¥105.15 level. The pair tested short-term technical support around intraday lows during Australasian and European dealing and then moved to daily highs. Bank of Japan released its monthly economic report overnight and kept its assessment of the Japanese economy unchanged for the third consecutive month despite recent data that confirmed Japan is in a technical recession. BoJ reported the economy “is expected to continue to recover” and spotlighted strength in corporate capital spending and the improving labour market. It noted exports are “generally flat” and said industrial output “has been soft.” Regarding deflation, BoJ reported consumer prices are likely to decline “slightly” year-ago levels. Bank of Japan’s Policy Board also voted overnight to keep monetary policy unchanged. BoJ Governor Fukui spoke overnight and said the BoJ should be able to keep meeting its liquidity target of ¥30-35 trillion in current account deposits, contrary to recent speculation that BoJ was having problems managing this facility. The central bank has failed eight times in 2005 to inject the targeted amount of liquidity through its daily open market operations, reflecting an improvement in the disposal of non-performing loans. Fukui also reiterated the BoJ has no intention of increasing its ¥1.2 trillion monthly purchases of JGBs in the secondary market and said the BoJ will not unwind its quantitative easing policy until it’s often-stated CPI-related criteria are met. MoF’s Watanabe verbally intervened overnight and said the yen appears to be “overvalued” against the dollar and also added China is unlikely to revalue the yuan soon. Data released in Japan overnight saw foreign investors sharply curtail their net purchases of Japanese equities last week as they purchased a net ¥67.86 billion, down from ¥357.1 billion a week earlier. The Nikkei 225 stock index came off 0.16% to close at ¥11,582.72. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥105.90 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥137.85 level and was supported around the ¥137.20 level. In Chinese news, People’s Bank of China reported the M2 money supply rose 14.1% y/y to RMB 25.78 trillion at the end of January.

The British pound moved marginally higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.8925 level and was supported around the $1.8835 level. Sterling continues to try and derive support around the technically-significant $1.8840 level but has not yet challenge technical resistance around the $1.9030 level. Data released in the U.K. today saw January retail sales print higher-than-expected, up 0.9% after a revised 1.1% monthly fall in December. Traders are still talking about yesterday’s less-than-hawkish Quarterly Inflation Report from Bank of England. The central bank yesterday reported that personal consumption remains “highly uncertain” and is likely to be the largest determinant of monetary policy. Cable bids are cited around the $1.8760 level. The euro fell marginally vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the ₤0.6900 figure and was capped around the ₤0.6920 level.


The Swiss franc was little-changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1895 level and was supported around the CHF 1.1830 level. Intraday highs coincided with the 38.2% retracement level of the recent CHF 1.1285/ 1.2260 range. Dealers cited some Swiss franc buying following good earnings reports from Swiss heavyweights Credit Suisse and Zurich Financial Services. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.2030 level. The euro gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5490 level while the British pound moved higher to test the CHF 2.2435 level.


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