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Wednesday May 26, 2004 - 21:36:08 GMT -

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Little Reaction in Dollar After Disappointing US Data

· Ashcroft: Terror attacks in US possible ahead of November elections
· Muted currency reaction to poor US durable goods and new home sales data
· Narrowing Japanese trade surplus suggests improving domestic demand

After two days of solid gains, EURUSD consolidated in choppy price action Wednesday, ending the New York session at roughly the same level as yesterday’s close. EURUSD traded down to a low of 1.2079 before recovering above 1.2100 and trading a tight 20-pip range, as fresh terror warnings in the US lent some support to the euro. Earlier the Eurozone posted a hefty March current account surplus of EUR12.4 billion, up from EUR5.8 billion in February. In Italy, business confidence disappointed following similarly weak readings in Germany and Belgium. Poor US data seemed to have little effect on the pair, as durable goods orders and new home sales both surprised sharply to the downside. Crude oil, a key FX market mover recently, traded lower as investors analyzed conflicting supply reports from the Energy Department and American Petroleum Institute; while the former reported stocks unchanged, the API release showed a slight increase. Despite oil’s recent precedence in the market however, ECB President Trichet noted today that rising crude prices have not had any effect on monetary policy in the region.


Two-way price action in USDCHF prevailed as the Swiss franc enjoyed a strong bid in London after the release of well-above consensus data. The KOF leading indicator, a gauge of Swiss economic activity six months out, rose to a three-year high of 0.95, exceeding the market’s expectation of 0.6. The steady uptrend in the indicator this year coupled with labor market improvements demonstrates the benefits of global recovery on the Swiss economy. With the sharply higher reading, pressure continues to build on the SNB to tighten rates, with hikes possibly coming as soon as late summer or early fall. Better than expected employment data tomorrow and Q1 GDP Friday could all but confirm a Swiss upturn. In the New York session, CHF gave back nearly all of its London gains despite worse than expected US durable goods and home sales data, largely viewed by the market as payback for record gains recorded in each series last month. USDCHF ended in New York around the 1.2725 level, marginally weaker after Attorney General Ashcroft warned in an afternoon press conference of potential terror attacks in the US this summer.


Cable tested 1.8200 early in New York before falling to a low of 1.8120. Q1 UK GDP data came in a little weaker than expected, as growth slowed to an unrevised 0.6%, from 0.9% last year in Q4. This marks the first slowdown in UK economic activity in a year, led by declining factory production, which fell 0.5%. Still, this softer report should do little to alter the BoE’s tightening stance, with up to 75 basis points work of hikes expected this year. Weak US durable goods and new home sales data coupled with new terror concerns helped the pound maintain a slightly bid tone into the New York afternoon. Volatile durable goods orders experienced their biggest decline since September 2002, falling 2.9% in April after outsized gains in February and March. Similarly, new home sales plummeted 11.8% in April, the largest fall in ten years. UK data for the remainder of the week is light, with only the CBI industrial trends survey and consumer confidence expected.


Following up Tuesday’s freefall, USDJPY retraced some of its recent losses, trading steadily higher into the New York afternoon to end the session around the 112.00 level. Earlier, a narrower trade surplus driven by record levels in both imports and exports provided the yen with a bit of a bounce in Asia. The 1.1% surge in imports, more than double the 0.5% growth in exports, was seen as a sign of improving Japanese domestic demand, a key factor in Japan’s economic recovery. Small businesses still appear to be stagnating however as the Shoko Chukin survey recorded a marginal decline to 50.1 in May, from 50.3 in April. The market will be looking to Thursday’s retail sales data for additional signs of rising consumption in an economy that has long been powered by export-led growth. Signaling that the central bank remains committed to reflation, the BoJ’s Ueda today noted that while he expects to see some consumer price growth by 2005, there is no near-term need to alter the Bank’s zero interest rate monetary policy.


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