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Wednesday February 23, 2005 - 15:18:18 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (23 February 2005)

The euro depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3195 level – a key technical area – after failing to advance past the $1.3275 level overnight. The daily high, however, represented the common currency’s highest level since 12 January. Data released in the U.S. today saw a brief spike back to the $1.3230 level but it was short-lived as dealers pushed the pair back under the $1.3200 figure. The data saw U.S. headline CPI up 0.1% last month while the core rate was up 0.2%, in-line with expectations. These data defied concerns that retail price pressures would be robust following last week’s unexpectedly strong core producer price inflation. Attention now focuses of the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting minutes from early February as traders seek any clues about the trajectory and momentum of U.S. interest rates. Other data released in the U.S. today saw weekly same-store chain stores sales up 1.8% y/y. The euro moved lower during European dealing on account of a pullback in the February German Ifo headline business climate index to 95.5 from 96.4 last month. Today’s print was also below expectations but German Economy Minister Clement reported the economy there remains on track despite the Ifo’s “very modest” decline. Other eurozone data released today saw Italian December retail sales off 0.5% y/y while Italy’s February manufacturing business confidence index fell to 86.8 from 88.7. European Central Bank policymaker Quaden today called on eurozone countries to exercise “extreme caution” during the current reformations to the Stability and Growth Pact. Euro bids are cited around the $1.3195/ 1.3085 levels.


The yen retraced some of yesterday’s appreciable gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥104.85 level after printing as low as the ¥103.95 level during Australasian dealing. Stops were hit above the ¥104.25 level during the pair’s ascent, the 50% retracement level of the recent ¥101.65/ 106.85 range while the 38.2% retracement of that range is today’s high. The yen’s sell-off today was precipitated by separate denials from Asian monetary authorities that they were selling U.S. dollars to diversify their reserve portfolios. Japan’s Ministry of Finance indicated it has no such plans and this propped up the greenback because Japan is the world’s largest official holder of U.S. dollar reserves with a US$ 850 billion war chest. Similarly, Bank of Korea denied intense speculation yesterday that it is rejigging its US$ 200 billion reserves portfolio whole Taiwan’s central bank denied a media report in Taipei, saying it “has not been selling U.S. dollars.” Traders also dumped yen overnight when it was reported that Japan’s merchandise trade surplus fell 59.9% y/y last month, significantly below expectations. This represented the first time since June 2003 that Japan’s trade surplus with the rest of Asia, the European Union, and the U.S. receded. Other data released today saw service-sector activity remain flat in December and the corporate sector price index registered its largest decline in fourteen months last month – eroding hopes that Japan is finally emerging from deflation. These grim Japanese numbers today call into question the government’s and Bank of Japan’s recent assertions that the economy will continue to improve. The Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.8% to close at ¥11,500.18. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥104.90/ 105.25 levels. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥138.85 level and was supported around the ¥137.85 level Japanese names were seen buying the cross to invest in an unusual French 50-year bond tranche totaling €6.0 billion. In Chinese news, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown announced China will be invited to attend the G8 meeting in Scotland in July. Also, it was reported that China’s January wholesale prices grew 0.5% m/m in January while some Chinese policymakers were today quoted as urging People’s Bank of China to become more transparent in its decision-making processes.

The British pound was volatile vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.9130 level and tested short-term technical support around the $1.9040 level during European dealing. Minutes from Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee were released today and they evidenced an 8-1 vote to keep monetary policy unchanged, the first non-unanimous vote in ten months. MPC’s Paul Tucker defied his colleagues and voted in favour of raising rates by 25bps, saying risks to inflation were “less” skewed to the downside this month than in November. Tucker also said an increase in rates would have surprised the markets but posted the central would have been able to “offer a cogent explanation in the context of the forecast round and the Inflation Report.” Data released in the U.K. today saw an improvement in manufacturing sector confidence levels. Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.9030/ 1.8905 levels. The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the ₤0.6910 level and was capped around the ₤0.6945 level.


The Swiss franc came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1665 level and was supported around the CHF 1.1570 level. The pair’s daily high is roughly the 61.8% retracement level of the 2005 range and the pair hit some stops below the CHF 1.1585 level. Some traders cite below the CHF 1.1515 level but dollar bears didn’t have enough muscle to get there today. Dollar bids are seen around the CHF 1.1610 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5390 level while the British pound gained ground and tested offers around the CHF 2.2250 level.


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