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Friday February 18, 2005 - 15:36:36 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (18 February 2005)

The euro weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency failed to capitalize on hard-fought gains over the past two days and peaked around the US$1.3080 level today. European dealers hit stops below the $1.3055 level and drove the single currency to an intraday low around the $1.3015 level before North American traders pushed the pair back to the $1.3050 level. Traders are still digesting comments from Fed Chairman Greenspan wherein he reinforced expectations of higher rates this year but note the dollar improved little in the aftermath of his testimony. The dollar dichotomy now has traders caught between structural imbalances like the U.S.’s deficits and fairly robust cyclical economic growth and decent economic progress. Data released in the U.S. today saw headline January PPI up +0.3% while the ex-food and energy core rate rose a surprising +0.8%, easily eclipsing December’s +0.1% core gains. These data are the latest evidence of inflationary pressures in the U.S. economy and are consistent with Greenspan’s comments regarding a tighter monetary policy. Data released later in the U.S. session saw the preliminary February University of Michigan consumer sentiment index print at 94.2, down from the final January reading of 95.5. Data released in the eurozone today saw French GDP expand 0.8% in Q4 as consumer spending notched its highest quarterly rise in nearly four years, taking 2004 economic growth to 2.3%. Also, EMU-12 December industrial output data were released that saw a +0.5% rise, below expectations. In Germany, January consumer prices fell 0.4% m/m but were up 1.6% y/y while producer prices rose 0.8% m/m and 3.9% y/y in January. Italy reported a trade deficit of €393 million in 2004 compared with a €1.618 billion surplus in 2003 and Italian industrial sales climbed 3.1% y/y in December as orders were up 9.1%. Germany’s Clement was on the wires today saying February German unemployment data will be “significantly worse” than January’s print above 5.0 million jobless people. Outgoing European Central Bank policymaker Padoa-Schioppa today reported the EMU-12 economy is expanding at a faster pace than in 2001, 2002, or 2003. In other German news, traders are paying close attention to media reports that the powerful IG Metall engineering workers’ union is demanding a 6.5% wage hike for steel workers. Options traders cite talk of expiries at 1500 GMT today with strikes at $1.3050 and $1.3090. Euro bids are cited around the $1.2985 level.


The yen lost marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥105.70 level and was supported around the ¥105.15 level. The pair is struggling to end the week above the key ¥105.50 level, the 38.2% retracement level of the move from ¥111.30 to ¥101.65. The level also coincides with a 50% retracement of the recent ¥106.85/ ¥104.30 range. Today’s trading activity is remarkably similar to yesterday’s activity with many bottom-feeders buying seen buying dollars around the ¥105.25/15 levels. The Nikkei today reported that Japan’s Cabinet Office will maintain its economic assessment in its February report, spotlighting a “moderate” recovery with “some areas of weakness.” The report is expected on Tuesday and will likely included references to current themes like crude oil prices, currency exchange rates, and IT-related inventory adjustments. The Nikkei 225 stock index rebounded 0.67% overnight to close at ¥ 11,660.12. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥105.90/ ¥106.70 levels. The euro came off vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency could not sustain a brief move above the ¥138.00 figure and was supported around the ¥137.45 level. In Chinese news, Bank of Korea Governor is cited in a new interview as calling on China to adjust the yuan’s peg to the U.S. dollar. Governor Park Seung said “I do not think that a change in its foreign exchange regime would have a major adverse impact on China’s economy. Ultimately, the government has instruments to control the situation.” He also warned that “a steep downtrend in the dollar would make East Asian countries reluctant to buy more dollar assets, which would make it difficult for the United States to finance its deficits.” In other Chinese news, a Washingon, D.C. think tank has indicated China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s largest consumer in basic food, energy, and industrial commodities.

The British pound weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.8890 level and was capped around the $1.8970 level. Sterling derived some support around the $1.8905 level, a key area related to the recent $1.9550/ $1.8505 range. If cable is unable to sustain recent gains around this level, chartists expect the pair to fall back to the $1.8840/ $1.8760 levels. Data released in the U.K. today saw a strong public sector net cash requirement of -₤16.86 billion in January, compared around -₤14.38 billion in January 2004. This represents the highest January PSNCR figure in five years and will alleviate some concerns that taxes will rise after the next general election. Public sector net debt as of the end of December was equivalent to 33.4% of GDP. Public sector net borrowing printed at -₤6.59 billion in January compared with -₤3.59 billion in January 2004 and represented the highest net lending figure for January since 2002. Economists will still closely monitor future data releases to see if Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown can avoid breaking his “golden rule” regarding a balanced budget less investment. Other data released today saw CML mortgage leading recede in January to its lowest level since February 2002 while BBA reported net mortgage lending in January expanded by ₤4.4 billion. Also, BSA reported January mortgage lending and approvals activity fell to their lowest levels in years last month. Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.8840 level. The euro was basically flat vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency was capped around the ₤0.6905 level and supported around the ₤0.6880 level.


The Swiss franc was little-changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.1830 level and tested offers around the CHF 1.1895 level. The pair was unable to sustain a break above the technically-significant CHF 1.1880 level and chartists are now eyeing the CHF 1.1770 level as being supportive while the CHF 1.1980/ 1.2030 levels look to be technical resistance. Dealers also cite dollar offers around the CHF 1.2030 level and cited dollar support around the CHF 1.1650 level. The euro lost marginal ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5460 level while the British pound came off and tested bids around the CHF 2.2395 level.


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