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Thursday March 17, 2005 - 15:51:27 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (17 March 2005)

The euro ceded some of its weekly gain vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3340 level after failing to get above the $1.3420 level during Australasian dealing. Stops were hit below the $1.3365 level during North American dealing and pushed the pair to daily lows. Dealers suggest many market participants are simply booking profits after yesterday’s sharp move higher with many traders now seen flat and on the sidelines, absent any major new trading factors. Yesterday’s U.S. current account deficit data saw the broad measure of U.S. trade activity escalate to an all-time high in Q4 2004 but TIC data released on Tuesday confirmed the U.S. easily covered its January trade deficit with international portfolio flows. Data released in the U.S. today saw weekly initial jobless claims decline 10,000 to 318,000 from a revised 328,000 figure while continuing claims were reduced to 2.64 million. German Chancellor Schroeder shed some light on his fiscal policies designed to stimulate the weak German economy today by saying he will reduce the base corporate tax rate from 25% to 19% to finance this stimulus. Data released in the eurozone today saw EMU-12 January industrial production up +0.5% m/m and +2.2% y/y. Also, France’s current account deficit skyrocketed to -€3.911 billion in January from -€1.184 billion in December. Traders continue to monitor ongoing reports of central banks and monetary authorities that are said to be dumping dollars to diversify their FX reserves. It was reported that Bank of Korea’s foreign reserves climbed US$ 4.66 billion in the first half of March and that BoK would seek to boost returns on its FX reserves, an indication it may more actively manage them in the market and possibly diversify away from dollars. Likewise, Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves reached another all-time high of US$ 136.4 billion in the week to 11 March. Luxembourg’s Juncker, the EU official who is currently spearheading reforms of the Stability and Growth Pact, today said it will not be “catastrophic” if eurozone finance ministers do not reach a deal on Sunday to finalize the Pact’s reforms. Euro bids are cited around the $1.3325 level with euro offers seen around the $1.3420/40 levels. Stops are seen above the $1.3450/ 80 levels and the $1.3500 figure is still being touted as an option barrier.


The yen weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback recouped most of its losses yesterday, testing offers around the ¥104.60 level. The pair remained bid above the ¥104.05 level, above yesterday’s low around the ¥103.90 level. Dealers cited buying activity to names that are usually linked to MoF and BoJ but there was no explicit indication that official yen-selling intervention was taking place. Stops were hit above the ¥104.50 level during North American dealing. Options traders cite an expiry at ¥104.40 at 1500 GMT that is said to be at least one yard in size and this could keep the pair elevated through the run-off. Other option expiry levels are said to be around the ¥104.50/ 30/ 00 levels along with some at ¥103.70. Data released in Japan today saw foreign investors buy a net ¥353.7 billion in Japanese bonds and ¥537.9 billion in Japanese equities in the latest weekly reporting period while Japanese investors were net sellers of foreign bonds and stocks. It is notable that foreign investors have been net purchasers of Japanese equities every week thus far in 2005. Another reason cited for the yen’s weakness overnight was the move higher in oil prices to all-time highs as the front-month NYMEX future climbed to around $58.15. Government officials this week cited the high price of oil as a negative factor on the Japanese economy. The Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.82% today to close at ¥11,775.50. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥105.00 figure. The euro was little changed vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥139.50 level and was capped around the ¥140.00 figure. The British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested offers around the ¥201.05 level. In Chinese news, Merrill Lynch is predicting China’s government will continue to tighten macroeconomic policies in Q2 2005 to control inflation. People’s Bank of China confirmed two macroeconomic policy adjustments this week to tighten policy. Goldman Sachs released a report today that concluded a yuan revaluation would be “largely positive” for Chinese companies and could happen at any time.

The British pound came off sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.9185 level and was capped around the $1.9285 level. Stops were reached below the $1.9235/ 05 levels and these pushed sterling to technical support around the $1.9180 level. Data released in the U.K. today saw consumer spending slow its lowest three-month rate since March 2003 as February retail sales grew by only 0.2% m/m and 3.6% y/y. Traders are still talking about Chancellor Brown’s Budget speech yesterday in which he said the U.K. will be able to meet its fiscal objectives and reiterated a fairly optimistic economic growth forecast. Cable bids are cited around the $1.9180/ 50 levels. The euro came off and tested bids around the ₤0.6945 level after failing to get above the ₤0.6970 level.


The Swiss franc moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1595 level after finding bids around the CHF 1.1520 level. Swiss National Bank announced its quarterly monetary policy decision today and decided to keep interest rates unchanged, as expected. SNB reported “Switzerland’s economy has lost more momentum than expected. The sluggish economic environment in Europe, in particular, has had a dampening effect. The National Bank anticipates economic growth of around 1.5% in 2005, and thus a continuation of the moderate economic recovery. It expects inflation to recede slightly during the year under review. The annual inflation rate should average 1%. On the assumption that the three-month Libor will remain unchanged at 0.75%, annual inflation is expected to stand at 1% in 2006 and reach 2.1% in 2007. Compared with the December assessment, the inflation prospects have improved slightly. An interest rate hike is therefore currently not appropriate. The National Bank’s monetary policy has an expansionary effect and continues to underpin the recovery. Should unexpected developments push up the Swiss franc, the National Bank will take appropriate action.” Dollar offers are seen around the CHF 1.1570/ 1.1620 levels. The euro lost light ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around CHF 1.5440 level while the British pound moved higher and tested offers around the CHF 2.2260 level.


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