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Tuesday February 22, 2005 - 14:50:15 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (22 February 2005)

The euro appreciated sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3225 level after hitting stops above the technically-significant $1.3205 resistance level. The common currency escalated to its highest level since 13 January and was paid for most of the day. News from Bank of Korea that it would rebalance its foreign reserves by diversifying away from the dollar benefited the euro as South Korea has world’s fourth largest foreign reserves. Bahrain Monetary Agency’s Governor spoke thereafter and said he foresees a larger role for the euro in international reserves as Europe’s economy expands. Famed currency speculator Soros spoke at length last night and said a move from petrodollars to euros to by Middle East oil exporters and Russia are contributing to the dollar’s weakness and predicted the dollar will continue to tumble. Many traders are also moving into euros ahead of tomorrow’s German Ifo business climate index release and tomorrow’s German bond auction. European Central Bank policymaker Caruana today said the EMU-12 inflation outlook remains “relatively favourable” and added the ECB “can allow short-term deviations in the evolution of inflation.” Caurana also added the “growth outlook is somewhat less certain.” Data released in the eurozone today saw the EMU-12 current account register a surplus of €2.7 billion n December, up from November’s revised €1.7 billion surplus, and this takes 2004’s surplus to €40.2 billion, up from 2003’s €22.2 billion surplus. German GDP data released today saw a 0.2% q/q decline in Q4, confirming preliminary data released on 15 February, while other negative news released in Germany today saw its public deficit for 2004 amount total 3.7% of GDP, significantly above the Maastricht ceiling target of 3.0%. Other data released in the eurozone today saw French household consumption of manufactured goods rise 1.5% in January while the eurozone’s December trade surplus printed at €5.7 billion. Options traders cite a sizable $1.3200 expiry that rolls off at 1500 GMT today. Traders await today’s February U.S. consumer confidence number and CPI and GDP data later in the week. Euro bids are cited around the $1.3165 level.


The yen made a strong move vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥104.20 level, its lowest level since 4 February. Sizable stops were reached below the ¥104.50/ 20 levels during the downturn and the pair was pretty much given the entire day. Comments from North Korea’s Kim Jong-il that North Korea would return to multilateral talks regarding nuclear disarmament and that he seeks a peaceful Korean peninsula spurred some yen-buying. Also, Bank of Korea announced it will diversify its foreign exchange holdings overnight, pressuring the dollar some more. Japan’s government maintained its assessment of the economy for a second consecutive month overnight and notably removed mention of a strong yen as a risk factor. The report read “The economy is recovering at a moderate pace, while some weak movements continue to be seen” and again cited “inventory adjustment in the information technology sector” and “the development of crude oil prices” as current risk factors. Moreover, it noted “corporate profits are improving sharply and business investment is increasing,” consistent with the forecasts made in Bank of Japan’s most recent quarterly tankan report. On a largely negative note, the government reported “private consumption is almost flat” and added “the employment situation is improving, though some severe aspects remain.” Traders are closely watching movements in the crude oil market as NYMEX April futures moved above US$ 50.00/ barrel earlier in the day but still remain off the contract’s high of $55.67 in October. Minutes from Bank of Japan Policy Board’s monetary policy meeting of 18-19 January were released overnight and they evidenced a discussion regarding alteration of the target for commercial banks’ reserve deposits. BoJ has recently had trouble maintaining its liquidity target because commercial banks have diminishing interest to keep significant excess reserves as a safeguard against a run on deposits. Additionally, the central bank has recently failed to sell all of the securities its offers via its daily money market operations. These phenomena reflect a strengthening Japanese banking sector that is making progress in the disposal of non-performing loans and is seen by traders as being the first step towards eventually unwinding the central bank’s multi-year quantitative easing policy. The Nikkei 225 stock index shed 0.46% to close at ¥11,597.71. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥103.65 level while dollar offers are seen around the ¥104.85 level. The euro depreciated vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥137.10 level and was capped around the ¥138.10 level. The cross was quite volatile as it came off during Australasian dealing, moved sharply higher during early European dealing, and then moved to daily lows before moving back above the ¥137.50 level. In Chinese news, China’s CPI gained 1.9% y/y in January, the slowest growth CPI increase since October 2003 and below December’s 2.4% rise. These data surprised traders and evidence some success with the government’s initiatives to slow China’s macroeconomy. They also reduce the likelihood of a tighter monetary policy by People’s Bank of China in H1 2005.

The British pound gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.9135 level, its highest level since 3 January. Sterling hit stops above the $1.9030 level and easily gained another hundred pips, only to decelerate during early North American dealing. Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Barker – a putative monetary dove – today said “The main reason why (the MPC) didn't put rates up last time is uncertainty about short-term trends in the economy.” She added “It's very difficult to tell what is going to happen going into next year. In some senses that could be an upside risk. The fundamental point isn't so much whether there is another quarter point or so to go but that the peak in the cycle may not be very much higher and that'll be a very much lower peak than the ones we're used to having.” Thus, while policymakers may have been preoccupied with short-term economic moves this month and were probably closer to a move than most anticipated – prompting a stronger pound – Barker is suggesting the current tightening cycle may be capped at lower levels than would have warranted in the past. MPC meeting minutes for February will be released tomorrow. Cable bids are cited around the $1.9065/ 40 levels. The euro gained ground vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.6925 level and remained supported around the ₤0.6880 level.


The Swiss franc made a sharp move higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.1615 level, its lowest level since 4 January. Major stops were hit below the CHF 1.1745 level and $1.1650 levels, key retracement levels related to relative 2004 dollar peaks of $1.3225 and $1.2850. Data released in Switzerland today saw the value of Swiss exports rise 3.9% y/y in January to CHF 11.25 billion while imports fell 1.0% to CHF 10.07 billion, rendering the trade surplus CHF 1.2 billion. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1700/25 levels. The euro came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5355 level while the British pound depreciated sharply vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested bids around the CHF 2.2175 level.


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