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Tuesday March 1, 2005 - 12:03:51 GMT
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A lot of dollar maybe's...


“The facts are unimportant! It’s what they are perceived to be that determines the course of events.”
R. Earl Hadady

FX Trading

Maybe Mr. Greenspan’s low-yield “conundrum” is about to be resolved. This is from The Wall Street Journal this morning:

“Another danger with a sharp rise in the 10-year yield is that loan originators, worried that the price they will be able to obtain for mortgage loans in the secondary market will fall as rates continue to rise, begin to sell more mortgages, including home loans that are due to close several months later, pushing up supply.

“There were some signs of that already, said Walter Schmidt, senior vice president and manager of mortgage strategy and research for FTN Financial in Chicago.

“The mortgage-bond market has been struggling since Fannie Mae last week said that it sold mortgage bonds from its retained portfolio, seen widely as part of its efforts to bolster its capital. The sales served to cast doubt over its role as key support for the market whenever yield margins widen. On top of that, the housing-finance giant also said that its regulator had identified additional accounting issues besides the ones highlighted last year.

"People are pretty nervous," said Bill Chepolis, senior mortgage-backed securities strategist and portfolio manager for Deutsche Asset Management in New York. "Everyone's got one eye on the door because at some point they know they're going to have to get through there and scale back some of their positions."

It would appear the mortgage guys are getting nervous—rightly so according to Morgan’s Richard Berner:

“Housing fundamentals, in my view, are as good as they get, and activity is likely to decline over 2005 and 2006. Among the reasons: Previously favorable demographics are turning less supportive, much pent-up demand seems to have been satisfied, soaring housing prices have made purchase less affordable, interest rates are gradually rising, and starts are slightly out of line with sales.”

10-Year Treasury Note Futures Daily:

Yesterday we learned Mr. US Consumer’s personal income fell 2.3% in January from a month earlier. That was the sharpest decline in 11 years, according to the Journal. If the US housing market begins to sag, it would represent a double hit to wealth—as many have used their home to create income.

This means the US non-farm payroll number due out on Friday will take on additional importance for economist evaluating the potential for the US economy going forward.


1) Is the dollar being supported more by a rising yield differential?
2) Or is the dollar being supported more by US growth differential?

I know those questions can’t be answered in isolation, if at all. If they could, this stuff would be a heck of lot easier than it is. It’s all relative, as usual.

Germany once again proved its job machine is operating in reverse gear. And it’s unlikely the ECB will move on interest rates for a while. So that could mean the euro zone is facing both poor job growth and a falling interest rate differential.

But “au contraire” say the euro bulls. There’s that little bit about Asian central banks preferring euros to dollars. A good point indeed!

As usual, a lot more questions than answers. Maybe Stephen Roach summed up well on Friday, writing about one of his favorite subjects—the Fed:

“The issue is not whether the Fed should take the funds rate back to its neutral setting — or even into the restrictive zone if it wishes to cool the economy. That is imperative, in my view. The question is whether the Fed will engineer such a tightening. As much as I hate to say it, I do not think that this Fed has either the courage or the political will to pull off such a maneuver. The logic hinges on my belief that the Fed has thrown its full weight of support behind the Asset Economy — an economy that is built on a false foundation of unsustainably low real interest rates.”

Or maybe there is no such thing as “summing it up.” Maybe all we can do is the best we can do and try to eek out as many singles and doubles as we can and be happy with that.

Jack Crooks


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