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Monday June 14, 2004 - 20:45:04 GMT -

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Dollar Weakens On Record Trade Deficit

· Dollar Lower as US Trade Deficit Widens to New Record
· Inflation and Politics Dominate European Markets
· UK House Prices Continue to Soar

EURUSD - Inflation and politics is the talk of the markets in Europe this morning. French inflation reached a 12-year high of 2.8% yoy during the month of May. Higher oil prices have prompted oil sensitive companies such as airliners to increase ticket prices, sparking concern that the ECB may be forced to raise rates if inflation expectations become excessive. The ECB is a central bank that keeps a very close eye on inflation, which is already at the bank’s 2% limit. Consumer price inflation for the month of May is scheduled for release on Wednesday – according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, surging oil prices are expected to have boosted the inflation rate to a two-year high of 2.5% last month. However, the ECB’s decision to raise rates will be a tough, since it could mean jeopardizing the already weak economic recovery. The other big news out of Europe was the incredibly disappointing turnout at the EU Parliament elections this weekend – participation fell to 45%, which is reflective of voters’ dissatisfaction with the inability of their governments to spur growth, discontent with social reforms and high unemployment. In Germany, Chancellor Schroeder’s Social Democrats Party saw their worst defeat since WWII. The party won by 21.5%, which compares to the 30.7% margin that they scored in 1999. The ruling parties in France and Italy saw similarly humiliating results. The EU Parliament is the EU’s supervisory, consultative and legislative organ. Many see the EU Parliament as a toothless tiger that falls prey to EU Council of Ministers. Nevertheless, such disturbing blows are reflective of the people’s lack of support for their respective governments.

USDCHF - Last week’s incredibly hawkish comments from Fed officials will remain in the forefront of the markets this week, given a very heavy US economic calendar. Aside from the regularly scheduled releases we are also expecting Friday’s delayed releases. Last week, comments from Fed officials ranged from “further and faster than priced-in the market” to “measured” being more of a “plan than a pledge.” The Fed Funds strip is current pricing in 138bp of tightening by year-end. This makes tomorrow’s release of the consumer price inflation report even more important. The market is expecting CPI ex food and energy to increase 0.2% mom, which would keep the yoy rate unchanged at 1.8%. Should CPI increase more than forecasted, this would embolden those calling for more aggressive action by the Fed. The Treasury is also scheduled to release their Treasury International Capital flow data (TIC). We are expecting a sharp decline given reduced demand from Asian central banks. Meanwhile, the US trade deficit widened to a record -$48.3 bln from -$45bln in the month of April. This contrasts to the market’s expectations for a narrower deficit and was a result of a 1.5% drop in exports and 0.2% increase in imports. The wide deficit has been a recurrent burden on the dollar and surprisingly was a result of a higher domestic demand for cars and consumer goods and not oil prices. Retail sales on the other hand, increased 1.2% in the month of May after a downwardly revised 0.6% decline last month. Aside from last month’s drop, consumer spending has been fairly strong. In Switzerland, retail sales increased 1.6%, which is the fifth consecutive month of gains and indicates that the Swiss recovery is gaining momentum. Consumer demand should continue along with global growth. The SNB is holding their quarterly monetary policy meeting on Thursday.

GBPUSD - The UK economic calendar is also very heavy this week with inflation being the focus today and tomorrow. Higher oil prices has pushed producer prices to a 14-year high of 0.3% on a non-seasonally adjusted basis in the month of May, while input prices increased a seasonally adjusted 1.6%. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister reported a 10% increase in house prices during the month of April, confirming the buoyancy of the housing market. Tomorrow, we are expecting the UK CPI report. Higher oil prices should also be felt in tomorrow’s report, where inflation is expected to increase 0.4% mom and 1.5% yoy. On the political front, PM Blair’s Labour party won only 22.3% of the votes, compared to the Conservative party’s 27.4% - both lost to the UK Independence party. The lack of support for the current party reflects the people’s dissatisfaction with the government’s backing of the Iraq war. However, the country knows that this is not a vote to elect a government, but to express their protest with current policies.

USDJPY - Japanese 10-year government bond yields increased to a three and a half year high overnight before settling slightly lower. Improved business confidence has prompted investors to shift their asset accumulations from bonds to equities. The MoF’s Hayashi warned that the “sharp rise in bond yields is not good for the economy” and that they are cautiously watching “long-term rates.” The BoJ will be announcing their monetary policy decision. They are expected to keep policy unchanged since deflation is still a problem as consumer prices continue to decline.


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