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Friday March 18, 2005 - 15:02:06 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (18 March 2005)

The euro came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.3270 level after failing to get above the $1.3385 level during North American dealing. Stops were hit below the technically-important $1.3305 level, the 61.8% retracement of the appreciative 2005 U.S. dollar correction. One driver was a comment from Bank of Korea official Choo, the central bank’s FX reserve chief, who countered speculation BoK was diversifying its U.S. dollar portfolios saying there are “absolutely no plans to reduce our proportion of dollar holdings.” News released yesterday suggested BoK will more actively manage its growing foreign reserves in search of better returns. Central bank foreign reserve diversification is one of the most topical items and drivers in the FX market now as comments have been made involving Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, India, Bahrain, Taiwan, and Ukraine. Collectively, those countries own an appreciable percentage of the world’s U.S. dollar-denominated foreign reserves and any overt tinkering can have negative repercussions for the U.S. dollar. U.S. data released today saw the February import price index print at +0.8% while the ex-petroleum rate was up a tame +0.2% and the export price index was unchanged. These data are unlikely to have a major impact on the Federal Open Market Committee’s interest rate decision on Tuesday. Most Fed-watchers think policymakers will increase the federal funds target rate by 25bps and the real question remains the Fed’s policy bias and statement of risks. Many traders who booked profits on euro longs after the release of the better-than-expected U.S. Treasury International Capital data this week are shifting focus to cyclical factors like U.S. economic growth where the U.S. dollar holds a competitive advantage over many currencies. This may keep the U.S. dollar bears at bay for a while. There is additional speculation that traders are unwinding short U.S. dollar carry trades. Other data released in the U.S. today saw the mid-March University of Michigan consumer sentiment number print at 92.9, lower-than-expected and off from the final February reading of 94.1. Traders will pay close attention to remarks from Fed Chairman Greenspan at 1700 GMT today. Data released in the eurozone today saw the EMU-12 overall government deficit at 2.7% in 2004 from 2.8% in 2003 but the stock of public debt grew from 70.4% to 71.3%. Dealers will closely monitor this Sunday’s Ecofin meeting to see if a deal to reform the Stability and Growth Pact can be agreed. Notably, Germany (3.7%), France (3.7%), and Greece (6.1%) all had deficits above the 3.0% ceiling target while Italy’s deficit came in at 3.0%. Other data released today saw February French large retailer prices up 0.1% m/m and off 0.7% y/y.


The yen lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥105.05 level and was supported around the ¥104.50 level. Stops were hit above the ¥104.85/90 level, the 38.2% retracement level of the pair’s 2005 correction. Finance minister Tanigaki today said Japan is not considering a change in the composition in its foreign reserves, the largest in the world. Recent market speculation is focused on diversification of central banks’ and monetary authorities’ foreign exchange reserves and this has largely been a drag on the dollar. Economy Minister Takenaka today warned the surge in crude oil prices may negatively affect corporate profits and result in diminished household spending. The latter has been evidenced in weak final private demand for years but has recently evidenced somewhat of a comeback. NRI released its bi-monthly consumer sentiment index overnight at it printed at 144 for February, up from December’s 142 level and October’s 143 level. Bank of Japan announced a five-year plan to make itself more efficient. The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 0.89% to close at ¥11,879.81. The euro lost ground vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥139.20 level after stops were hit below the ¥139.50 level. The British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the yen as sterling tested bids around the ¥200.65 level while the Swiss franc tested bids around the ¥89.85 level. In Chinese news, People’s Bank of China released a survey that said consumers are becoming more satisfied with current price levels. There is speculation that Vice Governor Guo Shuqing – the lead mouthpiece for China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange – may not longer be at the PBOC. Credit Suisse First Boston has upwardly revised its 2005 GDP forecast for China to 8.6% from 7.3% and has reduced its 2006 forecast to 7.2% from 7.5%.

The British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.9120 level and was capped around the $1.9250 level. Data released in the U.K. today was mostly mixed as the U.K. government’s fiscal position worsened in February. The public sector net cash requirement for February was the worst PSNCR of any February since 1997. These data call into question the sanguine growth and inflation forecasts released by U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer this week in his Budget speech. Other data released today saw BSA report that February mortgage approvals moved to their highest levels since August while CML reported February mortgage lending and the number of mortgage transactions declined. Also, BBA reported February net mortgage lending was up ₤4.8 billion, greater than the six-month average. Cable bids are seen around the $1.9005 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the ₤0.6930 level and was capped around the ₤0.6955 level.


The Swiss franc lost significant ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.1685 level and remained bid above the CHF 1.1565 level. Stops were hit above the CHF 1.1660 level, the 61.8% retracement of the appreciative U.S. dollar correction. Data released in Switzerland today saw the February producer prices and import prices index up 0.4% m/m and 1.7% y/y. Swiss National Bank announced no change in monetary policy. Dollar offers are seen around the CHF 1.1705/55 levels with more selling pressure around the CHF 1.1775 level. The euro gained ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5505 level while the British pound appreciated and tested offers around the CHF 2.2360 level.


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