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Tuesday May 25, 2004 - 22:28:58 GMT -

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USD continues lower despite oil retracement

· German business sentiment weakens slightly, little reaction in EUR/USD
· US consumer confidence remains steady in May
· ECB’s Tumpel-Gugerell: We have no bias on interest rates


Helped by official comments, EURUSD maintained its bid tone from Monday, spiking higher at both the London and New York opening despite mixed economic data. EURUSD made a run at the key 1.2135 level before succumbing to a mild dollar rally in the afternoon. While Germany’s Ifo survey fell for the third month in four in May, it was largely in line with the market, with the expectations component rising only marginally. Brushing aside lackluster confidence numbers and sounding a more optimistic note, Bundesbank President Weber assessed that the German economic recovery is sustainable and unaffected by near-term declines in business confidence. Joining other policymakers in commenting on oil prices, Weber noted that a continued run-up in crude could prompt the ECB to reassess its inflation forecasts. However, although oil may contribute to rising price levels, as of yet they have not made a lasting negative impact on the Eurozone economy.


Although crude oil prices came off yesterday’s all-time traded highs, the dollar continued to exhibit weakness, giving up nearly 100-pips early in New York before an afternoon rally sent USDCHF to the 1.2725 level. The Swiss franc may have enjoyed a safe-haven bid on news of an oil pipeline explosion in Northern Iraq. Into the US session, trading was choppy as the market digested US consumer confidence and home sales data. The Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence remained flat in May, with the closely watched figure of respondents claiming that jobs are “hard to get” rising from 28% to 30.6%. Speaking at a conference in Lucerne, the SNB’s Blattner observed that inflation in the region is “very stable,” and that the monetary policy debate centered on the question of the Swiss recovery’s durability. To that end, Wednesday’s KOF leading indicator will likely signal continued Swiss growth and potential outperformance of the Euro area.


Cable consolidated its hefty gains recorded in London and Asia, moving higher on a below consensus US consumer confidence reading and testing the 1.8150 level before coming off. Earlier in London the Office of National Statistics reported that UK business investment in Q1 rose 0.3%, a two-year high, although a marked deceleration from the average growth of the past three quarters, 1.5%. Still, the overall trend in investment has been up and will likely add to continued calls for the Bank of England to tighten monetary policy. Indeed, at his monthly press conference, PM Blair asserted that the central bank, rather than the Treasury, was ultimately accountable for managing inflation, including house price growth. The market is increasingly positioning for aggressive BoE tightening, with some central bank watchers calling for 5% short rates before the end of the year. Any upward revisions to Wednesday’s second release of Q1 GDP will provide additional support to the recently well-bid sterling.


USDJPY collapsed in London and into the US session as the yen caught a bid, helped by slightly weaker than expected US confidence data and encouraging profit reports from the Japanese banking sector. After breaching and then giving up the 113 handle in Asia, USDJPY traded down to the 111.70 level by the end of the day in New York. Japan’s top three banks reported solid earnings for fiscal year 2003, with their proportion of nonperforming loans declining to 5.2%, ahead of the schedule set by the government. Yen correlation with the Nikkei remains in effect—strong gains Tuesday in the Dow and Nasdaq augur well for Wednesday’s Nikkei session, potentially lending further strength to the yen rally. For the remainder of the week the market will be looking to an array of Japanese data on domestic demand, consumption, unemployment and prices for direction. As for the central bank, deflation anxieties continue; minutes from the BoJ’s April 8-9 meeting reveal that some members are concerned that rising long term rates could delay the arrival of much-need reflationary price increases.


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