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Saturday June 5, 2004 - 10:47:44 GMT
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Employment figures fail to boost dollar

The dollar's failure to take advantage of the firm employment data illustrates the shift in market sentiment and underlying dollar vulnerability. There is a high probability of a 0.25% Fed rate increase at the end of June, but a gradual tightening has been priced in. The US fundamentals also remain weak with the current account deficit liable to widen further. There will be further concerns that high oil prices will slow the US economy while security concerns will be a persistent obstacle to strong private-sector capital inflows. There will still be significant intermittent dollar rallies, especially if risk aversion eases as US growth will be seen as more attractive, but medium-term dollar losses remain realistic.


Data releases

US:
Unemployment 5.6% May (5.6% April)
Non-farm payrolls +248,000 May (+346,000 Apr)
ISM index manufacturing 62.8 May (62.4 Apr)
ISM index services 65.2 May (68.4 Apr)
Jobless claims 339,000 week ending May 29 (345,000 prev)

Market analysis

The Euro made a brief challenge on 1.23, but was unable to break through this level. A market holiday on Monday curbed trading and there was also caution ahead of the key employment report. The markets also failed to gain any significant impetus from the US employment report, with the dollar dipping to 1.2280 on Friday.

The US data generally offered some dollar support, although there were no dramatic upside surprises. The ISM index for the manufacturing sector edged higher to 62.8 in May from 62.4 the previous month while the employment component rise to a 31-year high. The services sector index dipped to 65.2 from 68.4 the previous month, but the employment element was again strong. The key payroll report recorded a 248,000 increase in employment compared with expectations of a 215,000 increase. The April and March figures were also revised higher with the April increase pegged at 346,000 compared with 288,000 previously.

There have been indications of inflation in the recent data and there is a clear case for the Fed to start increasing rates in June. An aggressive tightening is likely to be resisted unless inflation accelerates and a gradual increase in rates has been factored into dollar values. The dollar's inability to make progress even with favourable data underlines the underlying dollar vulnerability. In this context, the dollar will need to attract increased private capital to strengthen.

There have been further concerns over the impact of high oil prices and this has hampered the US currency. A sustained increase in prices would choke-off demand and make it more difficult for the Fed to tighten policy aggressively. High energy prices will also damage the trade account. Opec producers have pledged to increase output by 2.5mn bpd in two stages and prices have dipped back below the US$40 pb level, but there is still a risk premium in the market and uncertainty over whether oil prices will decline significantly. The net impact on the dollar is likely to be negative, especially in view of the substantial current account deficit. Again, the source of oil-price strength will be important. If high prices reflect strong global growth, then the negative dollar impact will be limited. If oil price strength reflects risk aversion and security concerns then the implications will be more negative for the dollar.

 

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