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Thursday February 18, 2010 - 16:00:01 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (18 February 2010)

The euro appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3645 level and was supported around the $1.3540 level. The common currency reversed course during the North American session and moved to intraday highs after U.S. equities opened better and also following the release of U.S. economic data.  It was reported that weekly initial jobless claims unexpectedly rose to 473,000 from a revised print of 442,000 while continuing jobless claims were unchanged from a revised 4.563 million.  Traders await clues as to when the U.S. labour market will improve and today’s data do not offer much confidence.  Other data released in the U.S. today saw the January producer price index climb stronger-than-expected at +1.4% m/m and +4.6% y/y while the ex-food and energy core rate was up 0.3% m/m and 1.0% y/y.  Additionally, the February Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index improved to 17.6 with improvements in the employment, prices received, and new orders sub-indices while January leading indicators came in weaker-than-expected at +0.3%.  Tomorrow’s U.S. data releases will include the January consumer price index.  Minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s most recent meeting were released overnight in which policymakers debated a reduction in the size of the Fed’s balance sheet that currently stands at US$ 2.26 trillion.  Some policymakers noted they want to begin selling some of the Fed’s assets “in the near future” and added the Fed’s holdings need to shrink “substantially over time.”  In Bernanke’s prepared testimony on 10 February, he noted he does not expect any asset sales in the “near term” and said any such sales will occur at a “gradual pace.”  The Fed also reaffirmed it would end its US$ 1.25 trillion program to purchase mortgage-backed securities as previously planned.  Philadelphia Fed President Plosser said he advocates selling the Fed’s mortgage-backed securities at the right time, rather than “relaying on redemptions.”  In eurozone news, the EMU-16 flash February consumer confidence index fell to -17.4.  German Chancellor Merkel today said it would be a “scandal” if banks helped Greece falsify its budget deficit statistics through derivatives transactions.  Even if the swaps were legal at the time, Greece’s indebtedness may have been understated for years.  Many German politicians are railing against any semblance of a financial bailout for Greece.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.3530 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥90.65 level and was capped around the ¥91.25 level.  As expected, Bank of Japan voted unanimously to maintain its overnight call rate at 0.1%, the same official target level it has been at since December 2008.  BoJ Governor Shirakawa reported “the key to putting Japan out of deflation” is “improving productivity.”  He also noted the central bank will monitor the impact of Toyota’s massive vehicle recall on overall Japanese production and the impact of Europe’s debt crisis.  The government had been pushing the BoJ to expand policy further to counter strong deflationary pressures.  In recent days, finance minister Kan has been proposing an inflation target of at least 1%.  In December, BoJ Policy Board members noted their “understanding” of price stability is increases of up to 2%, with a median of 1%.  Shirakawa pushed back harder on the central bank after today’s meeting, saying “It’s important to gain trust of financial markets by showing a path of fiscal consolidation.”  In recent weeks, he has indicated that increases in productivity and final private demand are required to close the output gap, along with fiscal consolidation.  He also today indicated governments need to “respect” the fact the monetary policy is not designed to finance fiscal spending.  Shirakawa’s overnight remarks are the sternest he’s made to date and evidences a new level of tension and friction between the central bank and government.  Whereas the Japanese government has limited – if any at all – scope to increase fiscal spending, the central bank is making it clear that it will not be a proxy fiscal agent for government spending.  Earlier this week, Kan suggested the government may modify its tax code and raise the sales tax.  The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 0.28% to close at ¥10,335.69.  U.S. dollar offers are cited around the ¥94.75 level.  The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥141.20 level and was capped around the ¥143.05 level.  The British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested bids around the ¥141.20 level while the Swiss franc moved lower vis-à-vis the yen and tested bids around the ¥83.85 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$ 1.5555 level and was capped around the $1.5685 level.  Many data were released in the U.K. today.  First, the February CBI industrial trends survey improved to -36 from -39 in January, evidencing a marginal improvement in manufacturing activity.  Second, January mortgage approvals decreased to 49,000 from 60,000 and the January M4 money supply rose to 0.6% m/m and 5.1% y/y.  Perhaps the biggest news today confirmed that U.K. public borrowing increased for the first time in the month of January since at least 1993, up ₤4.3 billion.  Notably, public borrowing from April 2009 through January 2010 grew to ₤124.2 billion, an all-time record.  These data are indicative of the significant amount of debt being issued in the U.K. to finance the Brown government’s expansionary fiscal spending initiatives.  The U.K. media is reporting some economists are displeased with economic language Bank of England Governor King used in recent testimony as compared with the MPC’s meeting minutes.  Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.5340 level.  The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.8720 level and was supported around the ₤0.8660 level.


The Swiss franc appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.0745 level and was capped around the CHF 1.0825 level.  Data released in Switzerland today saw the January trade surplus climb to  CHF 2.42 billion from CHF 1.36 billion in December.  Also, the ZEW February expectations survey fell to 52.5 from 56.2 in January.  Dealers are today again speculating the Swiss National Bank sold francs for euro in an intervention to help Swiss foreign trade.  Many dealers believe the Swiss National Bank will not be able to prevent the Swiss U.S. dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.0930 level.  The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.4645 level while the British pound depreciated vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested bids around the CHF 1.6805 level.


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