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Thursday March 18, 2010 - 22:17:14 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (18 March 2010)

The euro depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3585 level and was capped around the $1.3740 level.  The common currency came off significantly amid rumours the Federal Reserve planned an intermeeting increase in the discount rate later today.  While a move in the discount rate would probably not have a major impact on market liquidity – such a move would be largely symbolic – it would be the latest indication that policymakers are looking to normalize policy as much as possible without lifting the federal funds target rate.  The Fed’s balance sheet increase US$ 25.5 billion last week to US$ 2.31 trillion.  Also weighing heavily on the common currency was a report that Greek Prime Minister Papandreou called on the European Union to indicate how much and what type of financial assistance would be available if Greek requires help in addressing its mammoth fiscal imbalances.  Germany apparently backtracked on the issue and instead of suggesting aid some could from a European Union partner or bilateral credit facility, Berlin is said to now support assistance from the International Monetary Fund.  Some believe the IMF may not be able to provide enough financial assistance to Greece.  European Union officials are planning to convene at a summit next week and this topic will be prominent.  Earlier in the week, the European Union signaled it was ready to provide financial assistance to Greece if required.  Data released in the eurozone today saw the EMU-16 January current account balance print at -€8.1 billion compared with the revised prior reading of +€ 2.3 billion.  Also, the eurozone trade balance worsened to -€8.9 billion from the revised reading of +€ 4.4 billion.  In U.S. news, the February consumer price index was up 0.0% m/m and 2.1% y/y while the ex-food and energy core rate was up 0.1% y/y and 1.3% y/y.  Additionally, weekly initial jobless claims fell 5,000 to 457,000 while continuing jobless claims grew to 4.579 million.  The Q4 current account deficit worsened to –US$ 115.6 billion, the Philadelphia Fed March index rallied, and February leading indicators fell back to +0.1%.  Overall, U.S. economic data continue to be mixed-to-better but there does not appear to be any traction evident in the U.S. labour market yet.  Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke criticized the so-called Dodd plan for regulatory oversight that seeks to limit the Fed’s regulatory and supervisory powers.  Euro bids are cited around the US$ 1.3335 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥89.75 level and was capped around the ¥90.80 level.  Bank of Japan kept its economic assessment unchanged for a fourth consecutive month, reporting the economy is “picking up.” The central bank also upped its assessment of business investment, adding it is “leveling out on the whole.”  Reuters released its quarterly corporate sentiment survey ahead of the release of next month’s quarterly Tankan survey and it evidenced a significant increase in business confidence.  Yesterday, Bank of Japan expanded its quantitative easing program. The central bank doubled its three-month lending facility to ¥20 trillion.  The move is not likely to have a significant impact on the real economy and may marginally increase liquidity.  The Policy Board vote in favour of the expansion was split and this suggests it may be difficult for BoJ policymakers to ease policy further, no matter how much pressure the government applies on the central bank.  Data released in Japan overnight saw the January leading index decline to 96.7 from 97.1 while the January coincident index improved to 100.1.  Data to be released overnight include February Tokyo-area department store sales, February nationwide department store sales, and the January all-industry activity index.  “Mr Yen” Sakakibara reported the U.S. dollar is still the global dominant reserve currency and said the U.S. appears to be moving away from its long-standing U.S. “strong dollar policy.”  The Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.95% to close at ¥10,744.03. 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 ¥122.65 level and was capped around the ¥124.25 level.  The British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested bids around the ¥137.00 figure while the Swiss franc moved lower vis-à-vis the yen and tested bids around the ¥84.75 level. In Chinese news, the U.S. dollar appreciated vis-à-vis the Chinese yuan as the greenback closed at CNY 6.8264 in the over-the-counter market, up from CNY 6.8259.  People’s Bank of China reported the first quarter business climate index rose 2.2% q/q, the fourth quarterly expansion.  U.S. Ambassador to China Huntsman verbally intervened today, saying the U.S. “hopes to see more flexibility on the exchange rate. I would be misleading you if I left you with the impression that this wasn’t a very, very important issue in the United States, and will continue to be. We’ll see how the next few weeks play out.”  The central bank is expected to tighten monetary policy further imminently and there is talk that final private demand in China is increasing.

The British pound depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.5215 level and was capped around the $1.5325 level.  Data released in the U.K. today saw the March CBI quarterly industrial trends survey improve to -37 from the prior reading of -39.  February public sector net borrowing rocketed higher to £12.0 billion with the public sector net cash requirement at £7.7 billion.  Also, February mortgage approvals came in at 48,000.  Bank of England yesterday reported it is considering an extension of the eligible collateral at its discount window.  Cable bids are cited around the US$ 1.4455 level.  The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 0.8915 level and was capped around the £0.8970 level.

CHF

The Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.0645 level and was supported around the CHF 1.0530 level. Data released in Switzerland overnight saw Q4 industrial production rise 6.4% q/q and decline 1.1% y/y while the February trade surplus declined to CHF 1.29 billion from CHF 2.42 billion.  The euro/ Swiss franc cross came off to a fresh sixteen-month low amid declining expectations of additional Swiss National Bank intervention.  Also, the March ZEW expectations index climbed to 53.8 from 52.5 in February.  The euro came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.4355 level while the British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the Swiss franc.

 

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