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Friday March 4, 2005 - 15:08:04 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (4 March 2005)

The euro was confined to a very narrow range ahead of the release of February U.S. non-farm payrolls as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3125 level and was supported around the $1.3095 level. The common currency remained bid above the $1.3085 technical support level ahead of the number and remained in a holding pattern ahead of the many U.S. economic data due today. The actual print saw non-farm payrolls come in at +262,000, exceeding expectations, while the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.4%. Economists expressed some satisfaction with the nature of the job growth as many sectors evidenced an improvement, including the beleaguered manufacturing sector that added 20,000 or so new payrolls. Despite the decent payrolls number, the euro was generally strong in its aftermath, largely on account of the build-up in long dollar positions in anticipation of a strong number. Dollar bulls simply ran out of steam after the print. Data released later in the session saw final February University of Michigan consumer sentiment print at 94.1, down from January’s final reading of 95.5. Traders are carefully monitoring the escalating price of oil where crude prices reached the US$ 55.00/ barrel market, the highest level since October. There are growing concerns that supply will be insufficient to meet demand, especially with one OPEC member talking about the price possibly reaching the $80.00 level. Also, Venezuelan President Chavez is threatening to curb exports to the U.S. and cold weather is expected to permeate throughout the central and northeastern United States through next week. Traders who have recently noted a slight hawkish bent in the statements of some European Central Bank policymakers had their observations affirmed by ECB President Trichet yesterday. He said “It's clear for all observers that at a time, that we will have to increase rates” and added the move is “anticipated” by market observers. Trichet also noted the ECB has not discussed rate cuts and cited the price of oil as a major risk factor. The ECB is currently using an average price of $44.70 for oil in 2005 and $42.20 in 2006 to calculate its projections for growth and inflation this year. Trichet also speculated private consumption in the eurozone could be “more robust” in the coming quarters but called recent consumption “insufficiently dynamic.” Regarding economic growth, Trichet said the ECB now believes real GDP growth will be between 1.2% and 2.0% in 2006 and 1.6% and 2.6% in 2006. ECB’s Issing today said differences among growth rates in EMU-12 countries could be “damaging.” Data released in the eurozone today saw the EMU-12 unemployment rate at 8.8% in January, unrevised from December’s rate, while EMU-12 retail sales were up 0.3% m/m in January but off 0.6% y/y. Also, French December industrial sales were up 0.1% while December retail sales were up 0.2%. In political news, France noted an EU referendum on adoption of an EU constitution will take place 29 May. Options traders cite option barriers around the US$ 1.3000 and $1.3300 figures. Euro bids are seen around the $1.3085/ 05 levels.


The yen lost marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today ahead of the release of February non-farm payrolls with the dollar paying the market around the ¥105.50 level and supported around the ¥105.25 level. Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Iwata said maintenance of the current quantitative easing policy is Japan’s best option, reiterating similar comments from BoJ Governor Fukui this week. Iwata also said the central bank is actively taking steps to maintain the current account target by broadening money market operations – a topical phenomenon now that BoJ is having problems injecting a sufficient amount of liquidity in the money markets. In fact, a poll released overnight reported 49$ of bond traders expect the current account balance at the central bank to fall below the government’s ¥30-35 trillion target in the April – June quarter. One possible result would be a rise in market interest rates, something the central bank is trying to avert before deflation is vanquished from the economy. Iwata also noted the price of goods has been largely flat recently. The Nikkei 225 stock index gained 0.14% to close at ¥11,873.05. Options traders cite expiries at the ¥105.40/ 105.25 levels around 1500 GMT. Dollar offers are seen around the ¥105.70 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥138.35 level and was supported around the ¥137.90 level. Today’s high represented a 50% retracement of the recent depreciation on the cross. In Chinese news, former Japanese MoF mouthpiece “Mr Yen” Sakakibara was quoted as saying China is unlikely to revalue the yuan before 2007.

The British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.9140 level and was supported around the $1.9045 level. Sterling lifted higher after the release of stronger-than-expected February U.S. non-farm payrolls data that were not strong enough to overcome the large long dollar positioning heading into the number. Data released in the U.K. today saw the latest Halifax U.K. hours price index come in at -0.5% m/m and +12.1% y/y – the lowest annual rate since December 2001. Also, the NTC/ REC reported staff placements have been rising at the slowest pace in nineteen months. Other data released today saw Q4 construction output up 1% q/q, taking total 2004 output up 4%. Cable bids are cited around the $1.9040/ 1.8970 levels. The euro was little-changed vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.6880 level and was supported around the ₤0.6865 level.


The Swiss franc gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.1730 level, a short-term technical support level related to the CHF 1.1890/ 1.1580 range. Stops were hit below the CHF 1.1770 level, another important level. Traders were unable to get to large stops cited above the CHF 1.1850 level. The pair was well-bid yesterday after the release of the relatively weak Q4 Swiss GDP report. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1845/ 90 levels. The euro was little changed vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5470 level while the British pound came off and tested bids around the CHF 2.2480 level.


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