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Wednesday February 17, 2010 - 17:12:10 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (17 February 2010)

The euro depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3685 level and was capped around the $1.3785 level.  The common currency gave back some of this week’s gains amid a report that Greece may have used questionable derivatives instruments to mask the real amount of its public debt before it qualified to join the eurozone.  The questionable swaps arrangements were said to have been made in 2002 or so and draw into question whether the markets really have a solid understanding about how much Greek debt is really outstanding.   Greece has until 19 February to disclose information on the swaps transactions it undertook.  The European Central Bank is said to have instructed Greece to reduce its budget deficit by an additional €2 billion.  Bank of Italy today said Italy’s derivatives transactions – which has itself been accused of using swaps and derivatives in the 1990s to qualify for eurozone membership – were certified by the European Union.  Greece yesterday received a 30-day period to improve its fiscal position after which time it must demonstrate how it is going to reduce its sizable 12%+ budget deficit to as low as 3% by the middle of 2012.  The European Union has offered qualified assistance for Greece’s severe fiscal problems but has not yet indicated if a financial assistance package will be offered, or by whom.  There remains some stiff political opposition by some in Germany and some traders are speculating a two-currency European Monetary Union may need to be introduced to salvage the eurozone.  Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero today said his country will do whatever is necessary to cut its deficit.  Data released in the eurozone today saw December construction output increase 0.5% m/m and decline 3.1% y/y while the EMU-16 trade surplus printed at a five-year high at €4.4 billion in December, up from €4.0 billion in November.  ECB member Quaden today said a “gradual” exit from its accommodative monetary policy will be best.  In U.S. news, data released in the U.S. today saw the January import price index climb 1.4% m/m from a revised +0.2% total in December and expand 11.5% y/y.  Also, January housing starts improved 2.8% to an annualized 591,000 while January building permits were off 4.9% m/m to an annualized 621,000.  Moreover, January industrial production beat expectations by growing 0.9% while January capacity utilization came in at 72.6%.  Dealers await the release of the minutes from the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting later in the North American session.  Dealers will pay close attention to the FOMC’s forecasts.  Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke will testify before the House on 24 February.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.3530 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥91.10 level and was supported around the ¥90.10 level.  Traders await Bank of Japan’s monetary policy decision overnight with most focusing on no change in interest rates or quantitative easing programs.  Bank of Japan Governor Shirakawa yesterday reported the central bank is ready to act “decisively” and is “always ready to provide abundant funds” adding it will maintain low interest rates “persistently.”  Finance minister Kan suggested the BoJ should adopt some sort of inflation-targeting measure, reporting a CPI around 1% should be a “policy target.”  Shirakawa also reported the central bank has expanded its balance sheet more than the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank have.  BoJ’s balance sheet was equivalent to about 26% of Japanese gross domestic product in December, compared with 21% at the ECB at 16% in the U.S.  He also noted Japan’s previous quantitative easing measures have had a “very limited” impact on reducing deflation but added BoJ policy alone cannot end deflation.  Vice finance minister Minezaki called on Japan to impose the so-called Tobin tax on financial transactions, noting “…speculative funds flowing carelessly…are destroying the lives of ordinary people.” Despite a recent 4.6% annualized increase in Q4 gross domestic product, some prices declined more than they have in more than 50 years and others dealers believe this decrease will result in additional easing measures from the central bank this week.  The GDP deflator tumbled 3% - the largest drop since at least 1955 – and the domestic demand deflator was off 2.9%.  Data released in Japan overnight saw the tertiary index come in lower-than-expected.  The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 2.72% to close at ¥10,306.83.   U.S. dollar offers are cited around the ¥94.75 level.  The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥124.85 level and was supported around the ¥123.90 level.  The British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested offers around the ¥143.60 level while the Swiss franc moved higher vis-à-vis the yen and tested offers around the ¥85.05 level. In Chinese news, the U.S. dollar remained steady vis-à-vis the Chinese yuan as the greenback closed at CNY 6.8333 in the over-the-counter market.  Chinese financial markets were closed for the Chinese New Year holiday.  Last week, People’s Bank of China reconfirmed it will “gradually guide monetary conditions back to normal levels from the counter-crisis mode” but then the central bank lifted reserve requirements by 0.5%, effective 25 February. The central bank is clearly trying to contain inflationary pressures and avert asset bubbles.  Some China-watchers believe the central bank could allow the yuan to appreciate some 5% in the coming months. 



The British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.5715 level and was capped around the $1.5815 level.  As expected, Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted 9-to-0 to keep its Bank Rate unchanged at 0.5% this month and to pause its ₤200 billion bond purchase plan, according to minutes released today.  Data released in the U.K. today saw January jobless claims rise 23,500 with the jobless rate steady at 7.8%.  The central bank is not expected to resume its bond purchase program unless the economy falters significantly.  BoE also warned credit conditions will remain tight “for some time” and said there is “no overwhelming risk” CPI could fall below 2,” noting economic headwinds remain “considerable.”  Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.5340 level.  The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the ₤0.8685 level and was capped around the ₤0.8740 level.


The Swiss franc depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.0785 level and was supported around the CHF 1.0645 level.  Many dealers believe the Swiss National Bank will not be able to prevent the Swiss franc from appreciating too much in the wake of the euro’s widespread depreciation.  There is speculation the central bank has intervened at least eight times in recent weeks by selling francs for euro. SNB member Jordan was quoted as saying “central banks need to be independent and have a clear mandate to ensure price stability.”   Data released in Switzerland on Mondat saw January producer price inflation climb 0.3% m/m and decline 1.3% y/y.  Swiss financial markets will likely be closed for most of the week for Carnival holidays.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.0810 level.  The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.4690 level while the British pound appreciated vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 1.6895 level.


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