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Thursday March 10, 2005 - 15:11:27 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (10 March 2005)

The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested technical resistance around the US$ 1.3440 level, a fresh multi-week high and the highest level since 4 January. Traders continued to dump dollars ahead of tomorrow’s U.S. trade data and Tuesday’s Treasury International Capital data. Most forecasts are predicting a slight increase in the January trade balance and the U.S. dollar has been given in expectation of a bad print. Market participants will learn whether or not the U.S. fully offset the trade deficit with international investment portfolio inflows on Tuesday when the TIC data are released. European Central Bank released its March monthly bulletin today and reported it is closely monitoring EMU-12 house prices and household debt. Notably, total household debt was above 55% of GDP in Q4 last year, up 10% or so from 1998 levels. The ECB also reported strong monetary growth rates are contributing to inflationary risks, consistent with recent comments from ECB President Trichet and ECB’s Wellink. Concerning economic growth, the ECB expects “only a modest improvement” in Q1 but said growth will pick-up later in the year. The ECB reduced its 2005 EMU-12 growth forecast to 1.6% from 1.9% last week. U.S. Treasury staffer Quarles spoke about the U.S. current account overnight saying “a risk of disorderly adjustment…is very low.” Quarles also said it is “inevitable” that Asian central banks will rebalance their FX reserves but added “it is very unlikely that such moves could have an adverse impact on the U.S.’s ability to finance is debt and the economy overall.” Data released in France today saw industrial output climb 0.2% in January while manufacturing output was up 0.5%. Chicago Fed President Moskow spoke last night and said a “measured” removal of monetary policy accommodation is likely given “the low level of inflation, well-contained inflationary expectations.” The Fed’s Beige Book released yesterday cited “persistent pressures on input costs” in some Fed districts. Fed Chairman Greenspan will speak tonight in New York. Options traders cite expiries at $1.3350, $1.3400, and $1.3500 at 1500 GMT today. Euro offers are seen around the $1.3495 level.


The yen lost minor ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥104.30 level and was supported around the ¥103.70 level. There were some fireworks in Tokyo overnight as Prime Minister Koizumi told a parliamentary committee that “diversification is necessary” regarding foreign reserves. He added Japan “has to make a judgment…about what is profitable and what’s stable.” MoF mandarins tried to quickly contain the damage, saying Japan has no intentions of changing the composition of its foreign exchange reserves. Such a pronouncement, of course, is very important because Japan is the world’s largest official holder of U.S. dollar reserves and U.S. Treasuries and any realignment of its holdings would impact the capital markets and U.S. dollar. Koizumi’s comments are also timely because U.S. trade deficit data will be released tomorrow and widespread speculation abounds about Asian countries lessening their purchases of U.S. assets – an argument espoused by the weaker dollar camp. Data released in Japan overnight saw January core machinery orders fall 2.2% m/m, an improvement from December’s 8.8% plunge and defying expectations of a 3.0% increase. It was also reported that Japan’s national wealth declined for the sixth consecutive year in 2003, off 2.6%. Bank of Japan reported the wholesale goods price index gained 0.2% m/m in February, up from January’s 0.3% decline, and was up 1.3% y/y – the twelfth straight monthly increase. BoJ policymakers are waiting for a stabilization of consumer price inflation before unwinding the central bank’s long-standing quantitative easing policy. The Nikkei 225 stock index shed 0.85% today to close at ¥11,864.91. Dollar offers are seen around the ¥104.25 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥139.95 level and was supported around the ¥139.10 level. Options traders cite an option barrier around the ¥140.00 figure. Euro bids are seen around the ¥139.20 level. The British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested offers around the ¥201.15 level and was supported around the ¥199.85 level. In Chinese news, China’s crude oil imports receded 12.7% y/y to 18.17 million tons in January and February. It was also reported that the European Union in China’s top trading partner with bilateral trading equivalent to US$29.64 billion, about US$ 3 billion more than U.S. – Chinese bilateral trade. People’s Bank of China today reported that the M2 money supply aggregate climbed 13.9% y/y to RMB 25.94 trillion at the end of February. PBOC Vice Governor Guo reiterated China will continue to reform its banking sector as previously reported. Other data released in China saw ex-factory industrial prices escalate 5.4% y/y, down from a 5.8% level.

The British pound was little changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today after cable weakened and tested bids around the US$1.9215 level. Sterling was capped around the $1.9305 level, a continued major level of technical resistance. As expected, Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee maintained its main repo rate unchanged at 4.75% today, the seventh consecutive month it has done so. The minutes from today’s meeting will be released on 23 March and traders want to see if additional policymakers voted for a monetary tightening today. MPC’s Tucker was the lone hawk at the February MPC meeting. Data released in the U.K. today saw new construction orders rise 9% y/y in January while the BRC reported its shop price index was up 0.62% m/m last month but 0.05% lower y/y. Cable bids are cited around the $1.9150 level while cable offers are seen around the $1.9305 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the ₤0.6975 level and was supported around the ₤0.7950 level.


The Swiss franc moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.1515 level, its lowest level since 4 January. Stops were hit below the CHF 1.1550 level and dealers report major stops in place below today’s low. Swiss National Bank President Roth spoke about the euro and Swiss franc yesterday and concluded the franc has “lost some of its significance as a safe-haven currency and has performed more in line with its fundamentals.” Roth also said the SNB has not lost any of its autonomy as a result of the euro. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1645 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5475 level while the British pound weakened and tested bids around the CHF 2.2195 level.


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