Tuesday April 26, 2005 - 09:14:42 GMT
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This week, the Euro will not be able to escape the effect of regional economic data. The calendar is laden with important figures on how business sentiment is faring, the state of the labour market as well as consumer spending. This morning, we already learned that German business sentiment fell for a third month in a row to a weaker than expected 93.3 from 94.0. However, given the state of the German economy, the deterioration is not particularly surprising. Instead, it was the double blow that came from both the IFO survey and comments by EU Commission President Prodi that really put a dent in the euro's struggle to breakout of its recent range. Prodi said point blank that a French "Non" vote would mean "the fall of Europe." This is certainly an over-exaggeration. Of course, this would hurt sentiment in the Euro, but a collapse of the entire region or the Euro project as a whole is unlikely. Even if the Netherlands votes no as well, the countries have the Nice Treaty to fall back on. There is already a Plan B circulating around called the "core Europe scenario" as written by Wolfgang Munchau of the Financial Times. Based upon this plan, Germany and France could team up to increase cooperation and coordination between the two countries in terms of economic and fiscal policy. If it works out, they could invite other countries to join their group and then gradually enforce their own rules. This may mean the dissolution of the ECB, but at least the Euro itself could be salvaged.
The dollar starts the week off on a stronger note thanks to the weaker German data and increasing pressure on China to revalue the Renminbi. The US Administration's jawboning on China has gotten to a fairly extreme level with Fed Presidents joining the chorus of complaints. Attacking China for its currency regime seems to be the new goal of the current administration. With all of its merits, it is important to point out that forcing China to revalue could also spell disaster for the US economy. It is no secret that a revaluation by China means that China along with the Asian region as a whole would reduce their rate of dollar reserve accumulation. As written by one of our favourite economists, Nouriel Roubini, unless the US parallels the reduction in demand from the Asian region with more responsible fiscal policies that would reduce the budget deficit and financing needs (aka - Tax increases), we could get a hard landing in the US as the dollar sharply falls and US long rates increases sharply. In fact, according to a UBS poll, many market participants expect the 10-Year bond yield to begin heading North once again. With the Fed on the course to increase interest rates by at least another 75bp, the economy could ill afford a surprising increase in borrowing costs.
The pound weakened during European trading, and then remained relatively flat during the New York session. The pound's softness was largely due to a report released by Hometrack, a property research group, which showed that UK house prices had fallen for a tenth straight month in April (down 0.1% MoM and 1.5%YoY). The news, combined with last week's lower quarterly GDP figure and unimpressive retail sales data, provides further evidence that UK economic growth is slowing. This also alleviated inflation concerns, slightly reducing the likelihood that the Bank of England will raise rates in the near future. Still, the rate of declines in average property prices reported by Hometrack has been moderating. Until this month the decline had slowed every month for the past four, with March's 0.1 percent drop the smallest since August 2004. The BoE had already noted that "the risk of sharp falls in house prices and housing market activity had diminished" in the minutes to its last meeting. Unfortunately consumer spending remains weak which will keep the central bank's hands tied for the time being.
The Japanese yen shook off mixed economic data to extend its rally against the US dollar. Corporate service prices fell by a more than expected 0.8% in the month of March, highlighting continued concern about deflation. This will make tonight's consumer price index even more important with prices on a national level expected to remain stagnant excluding the more volatile fresh food component. This keeps the Bank of Japan on track to do nothing at their monetary policy meeting later this week. The Nikkei reports that the BoJ will probably be pushing their forecast for the end of deflation a year out. The good data for the night was the less than expected decline in department store sales. Although purchases at department stores only account for 3% of total consumer spending, it has been a good indicator of overall retail trends. The Japanese yen continues to be thrown around by external factors. For the past few months, oil prices have dictated the direction of the yen, but it now seems like the reins are in the hands of China. Apart from China forcing Japan to issue a formal apology over the text in their new history textbooks, the fate of the Japanese yen seems to be contingent on what China will do with their currency. With conflicting comments coming from within the Chinese government, the topic of revaluation should continue to be a major focus of the markets in the weeks to come.
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