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Tuesday March 22, 2005 - 14:08:51 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (22 March 2005)

The euro retraced some of its sharp losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.3195 level, the 50% retracement of the 2005 range. Many traders were sidelined today ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee’s interest rate decision in which policymakers were expected to lift the federal funds target rate by 25bps. The big question heading into the meeting was whether the Fed would retain the “measured pace” clause that has appeared in recent FOMC interest rate announcements, or whether the Fed would embark on a more aggressive monetary tightening path. The next FOMC meeting will be held on 3 May. Data released in the U.S. today saw the February headline producer price index print at +0.4% while the core rate came in at +0.1%, as expected. The annualized totals came in at 4.7% and 2.8%, respectively, and the January print at +0.8% was unchanged. These data will become more important when the next batch of U.S. CPI data are released to see if there are so-called second round effects feeding into retail price levels from the producer price level, thereby engendering heightened fears of inflation. Traders continue to talk about the announced deal involving revisions to the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact and whether the watered-down regulations will have a positive or negative impact on the euro and eurozone growth. European Central Bank policymakers are clearly not pleased with the deal as many of them have outspokenly criticized the new revisions, suggesting they will create an upward bias on interest rates. Germany’s Bundesbank said these changes will “decisively weaken” Europe’s fiscal outlook. Luxembourg’s Mersch suggested the revisions to the Pact “will not be without consequence” for monetary policy while ECB’s Caruana said Europe’s problem remains a lack of economic growth. Data released in the eurozone today saw French February household consumption down 1.0% m/m while German January manufacturing orders were revised to -3.5% from -3.4%. Euro bids are cited around the $1.3085 level.


The yen gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥104.85 level and was capped around the ¥105.25 level. Today’s intraday low represents a 38.2% retracement of the dollar’s appreciative move from ¥101.70 to ¥106.85. Technically, if this level is broken, it opens up a move to the ¥104.25 level – the 50% retracement level. Minutes from Bank of Japan Policy Board’s monetary policy meeting in February were released overnight and evidenced a discussion about altering the current account deposit liquidity target of ¥30-35 trillion but policymakers opted to maintain the target through at least 1 April when the blanket guarantee on deposits in Japanese banks ends. Some policymakers also suggested that Japan’s long-standing quantitative easing policy should remain in effect. Data released in Japan overnight saw financial assets denominated in foreign currencies held by Japanese households increase 19% to ¥25 trillion as of the end of 2004. Finance minister Tanigaki today said Japan is considering a debt-to-GDP target to better manage Japan’s budget deficit. February nationwide CPI and preliminary March Tokyo-area CPI will be released on Friday. The Nikkei 225 stock index shed 0.32% to close at ¥11,841.97. Dollar offers are cited around the ¥105.60 level. The euro was confined to a relatively narrow range vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥138.50 level and was supported around the ¥138.10 level while the British pound tested bids just below the ¥199.00 figure and was capped around the ¥199.80 level. In Chinese news, Standard & Poor’s announced China’s ratings outlook will likely remain unchanged if China utilizes more of its foreign exchange reserves for public spending. It is estimated that China’s foreign exchange reserves will reach US$ 670 billion by the end of 2005. Former Hong Kong Monetary Authority official Latter today suggested China will need to revalue its yuan currency by at least 10% if the revaluation is to be deemed credibly by the markets. People’s Bank of Governor Zhou was quoted today as saying “"Judging from the present conditions, there shouldn't be too much fear of whether the money supply target can be achieved.”

The British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.9015 level and remained supported around the $1.8945 level. Sterling was the driver in yesterday’s market, leading the FX world sharply lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar. Despite its rally today, cable was unable to climb above the $1.9005 level, the 38.2% retracement level of the move from $1.8500 to $1.9320. Bank of England MPC member Barker spoke yesterday and suggested the U.K. labour market may not be as tight as many perceive it to be. Furthermore, she suggested an improvement in U.K. productivity may be a structural phenomenon and said the MPC should never target asset prices as it would lead to “volatile inflation expectations.” Data released in the U.K. today saw business investment spending increase 0.2% q/q, down from initial estimates of 0.4% growth. These data could lead to a downward revision to tomorrow’s Q4 GDP data, as could negative revisions to the U.K.’s trade deficits. Other data released today saw February consumer price inflation print at +0.3% m/m and climb +1.6% y/y – the same annualized rate as January and just below expectations. The RPIX measure expanded +0.4% m/m and +2.1% y/y, consistent with expectations. Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown weighed-in on the changes to the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact today saying they have essentially become a “sixth test” that is needed for eventual U.K. accession of Economic and Monetary Union. Cable bids are cited around the $1.8910 level. The euro was relatively flat vis-à-vis the British pound, unable to get through offers around the ₤0.6950 level.


The Swiss franc moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.1750 level and was capped just below the CHF 1.1800 figure. The CHF 1.1775/ 70 level represents the 50% retracement of the 2005 range and the pair has orbited this level today. Data released in Switzerland today saw the February trade surplus decline to CHF 365 million from CHF 1.132 billion in January. Notably, Switzerland’s trade surplus has declined some 32% y/y in the first two months of 2005. Dollar offers are cited around the CHF 1.1840 level. The euro gained some ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5530 level while the British pound was up marginally vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 2.2395 level.


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