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Tuesday September 20, 2005 - 14:00:50 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (20 September 2005)

The euro gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.2180 level and was supported around the $1.2130 level. The tight range today is attributable to uncertainty surrounding this afternoon’s Federal Open Market Committee interest rate decision. Most traders expect the Fed will raise the federal funds target rate by 25bps to 3.75% despite the unknown extent of the financial and economic impact of hurricane Katrina. Others, however, believe the Fed will pause at today’s meeting and possibly in November as well. Recent comments from Fed officials Moskow, Yellen, and Santomero make it probable the Fed will continue to tighten policy today. As is often the case, what the Fed says in its post-meeting statement is perhaps more important than what the Fed does today. An indication that the Fed may deviate from its long-standing “measured pace” mantra could be bearish for the dollar while focus on continued tightening and some inflationary pressures in the U.S. economy could be bullish for the dollar. Inflation hawks are currently looking at the price of gold – now trading around US$ 470.00/ ounce – as an indication that the markets are preoccupied with inflation. This represents a seventeen-year high and reflects concern with mounting energy inflation, among other factors. Data released in the U.S. today saw August housing starts fall 1.3% to 2.01 million units while building permits were off 2.2% to 2.124 million. These numbers will likely become much more volatile with the September series on account of hurricane Katrina. In eurozone news, dealers are still trying to make sense of what the political stalemate in Germany following Sunday’s too-close-to-call national election means for the common currency. Opposition leader Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union seems to have narrowly defeated incumbent Gerhard Schroeder and his Social Democratic Party but both leaders are trying to form a government with minority parties. The lack of a clear-cut victor is probably euro-negative, however, as it suggests potential gridlock in trying to pass much-needed economic and financial reforms in Germany. Data released in Germany today saw the September ZEW expectations indicator recede to 38.6 from 50.0 in August, far below forecasts. Other eurozone data released today saw Q2 Italian unemployment print at 7.7%, down 0.1% q/q. European Central Bank member Mersch spoke today and was hawkish in his remarks. Mersch said “The persistent high and rising oil price continues to exert upward pressure on prices and could lead to second round effects. I believe that figures for this year will be more influenced by the revision of the figures of the first quarter than by the immediate effect of oil prices, which will be more felt towards the end of this year, maybe the fourth quarter and then the first quarter of next year and that is why the revision of the growth figures for next year is probably more influenced by the oil prices than the immediate figures for this year.” He also bearishly said EMU-12 growth prospects have probably moved towards the “lower end” of the 2.0% to 2.5% range. Euro offers are cited around the $1.2195/ $1.2245 levels.

¥/ CNY

The yen gave up intraday gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥111.10 level and was capped around the ¥111.60 level. The pair has traded above the ¥111.00 figure all week and chartists are eyeing upside technical targets around the ¥111.90/ ¥112.00/ ¥112.55 levels. Data released in Japan today saw August convenience store sales recede 1.3% y/y to ¥605.9 billion, the thirteenth consecutive monthly decline. Notably, however, it was reported that central Tokyo land prices appreciated for the first time in fifteen years in the year to 1 July. The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 1.47% to close at ¥13,148.57, its first close above the ¥13,100 figure since June 2001. The move higher was prompted by purchases of financial stocks and this is important because it evidences increase confidence about Japan’s economy. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥110.95/ 75 levels. The euro moved marginally higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥135.65 level and was supported around the ¥135.15 level. Technically, today’s high and low were right around the 50.0% and 61.8% retracements of the ¥133.50 to ¥137.85 range. The British pound and Swiss franc gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested offers around the ¥201.25 and ¥87.35 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at the CNY 8.0890 level, down from yesterday’s close of CNY 8.0908. Vice finance minister Li Yong today said China’s “prudent” monetary policy will likely only require some fine-tuning and not major changes, an indication of probable continuity at People’s Bank of China. It was announced that Fed Chairman Greenspan and U.S. Treasury Secretary Snow will attend next month’s G20 meeting in China.

The British pound moved marginally higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.8080 level and was supported around the $1.8010 level. Technically, today’s high was right around the 76.4% retracement of the move from $1.8330 to $1.7270. CML reported that U.K. August mortgage lending activity reached its highest level since July 2004 and up 4.0% y/y. BSA reported that mortgage lending and approvals rallied last month and this observation was seconded by the BBA. It remains to be seen if similar surveys from Nationwide and Halifax confirm an uptick in mortgage lending for last month. BBA, however, reported that consumer credit lending receded last month for the second time in five months. Other data released today saw the August public sector net borrowing number register its best August performance in three years. Traders will pay close attention to tomorrow’s release of September Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meeting minutes. Cable offers are cited around the $1.8095/ $1.8130 levels. The euro moved marginally higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the £0.6745 level and was supported around the £0.6725 level.


The Swiss franc gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.2740 level and was capped around the CHF 1.2795 level. Stops were triggered below the CHF 1.2755 level during the move lower but the pair quickly reclaimed that level. The Swiss August trade balance will be released on Thursday and Swiss National Bank member Hildebrand will speak that day also. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2700 figure. The euro and British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested offers around the CHF 1.5540 and CHF 2.3080 levels, respectively.


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