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Monday April 4, 2005 - 10:12:52 GMT
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Rate expectations support dollar

The dollar weakened to a low of 1.3035 after the US data on Friday, but then rallied strongly to a high of 1.2880. There was little change in early Europe on Monday.

The US payroll report was substantially weaker than expected with employment growth held to 110,000 in March from a downwardly-revised 243,000 in February, undermined by weakness in manufacturing and retail sectors. The background elements were slightly more supportive with the unemployment rate falling to 5.2% from 5.4%. There was also a 0.3% and 4 cents increase in hourly warnings which was higher than expected.

The other US data was mixed with a decline in the University of Michigan consumer confidence index, offset by a rise in the ISM index for the manufacturing sector. The markets were also jolted by an earlier than expected release of the ISM services sector report. The report should have been released on April 5th, but was released at the same time as the manufacturing report and was confused as the manufacturing report. Given that the services report was strong, this lifted the dollar and the dollar held the bulk of these gains.

The price components were strong in both the ISM indices and inflation fears will, therefore, persist. Fed Governor Poole also stated that the Fed needed to be on guard over inflation. The inflation concerns will also be heightened by the fresh rise in oil prices to 2005 highs close to US$58 p/b on Monday. In the short term, inflation fears will tend to support the dollar on expectations that the Fed will tighten monetary policy at a faster pace, but it is very dangerous to assume that inflationary pressure will support the dollar in the longer term. There will be the risk of capital outflows from Wall Street and US consumer confidence could also start to falter more seriously. Nominal yield spreads will also be much less attractive if inflation fears increase. Comments from Fed officials will be closely watched this week, especially if Fed Chairman Greenspan chooses to comment on interest rates.

The latest IMM data recorded a decline in long Euro positions of over 9,000 in the latest week, but there was still a long position of close to 18,000. The risks of a sharp reduction in long Euro positions has eased, but the dollar should still be able to gain some protection, especially given the shift in short-term yields. The dollar will also gain support from the concerns over Japanese and Euro-zone growth prospects. Institutions already appear to be very short of the Euro and this will also make it difficult for the dollar to rally further.

 

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