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Wednesday September 28, 2005 - 20:41:04 GMT
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Forex: Dollar Unchanged as Record High Natural Gas Prices Offset Strong Durable Goods Orders

DailyFX Fundamentals 09-28-05

By Kathy Lien, Chief Strategist of www.dailyfx.com

- Dollar Unchanged as Record High Natural Gas Prices Offset Strong Durable Goods Orders
- Asian Central Bank Demand Said to be Supporting Euro
- Rebound in Small Business Confidence Boosts Yen

US Dollar

The dollar is slightly weaker against the majors, but overall the daily change is fairly nominal. A strong durable goods orders report was offset by a rebound in crude oil prices and a sharp drop in mortgage applications. It will be hard for dollar bears to argue about any weakness in this report with many sectors experiencing a rebound in orders for goods made to last for more than three years. The market had originally expected the orders to rise by 0.7 percent, but instead it increased a whopping 3.3 percent. Excluding the more volatile transportation component, orders increased 4.2 percent. The only pitfall of the data is that it is for the month of August and the market has learned to discount most pre-September numbers. Mortgage applications though, is much more telling. This is the biggest drop in applications since mid-July. The index fluctuates frequently, but it is still worth noting since we are seeing more and more evidence that demand is waning. Traders are also eyeing commodity prices. Even though oil is only higher by a $1.28, natural gas prices hit yet another all-time high. Given the short attention span of the markets though and the warm weather today, it isn’t surprising that traders have once again pushed back fears of what this means for consumers when the weather turns cooler. With half of the country using natural gas to heat their homes, the persistent rise in natural gas should be a bigger concern than the rise in crude oil. Massachusetts Electric has already announced their plans to hike energy rates by 27%, which would be effective between November and April. Other companies in the region such as Keyspan and Nstar have also proposed a winter energy price increase. Yet, Massachusetts is not the only state where energy prices are expected to rise, the Railroad Commission of Texas warned yesterday that Texans could expect an up to 50% increase in their home heating bills this year. But the dollar rages on as traders juggle momentum and flows with longer-term fundamentals. It remains to be seen who will win the battle. In the meantime, the US economic calendar is extremely busy tomorrow. Like durable goods, GDP could be less significant this time around because it is so backward looking.

Euro

The 1.2000 level in the EURUSD is holding well as a brief foray below that level only led to a sharper rebound. For days now, the interbank dealing desks have been talking about strong demand from Asian central banks at the 1.2000 level. Although much can come out of the rumor mill, we would not be surprised if this really is true – the new basket pegs in Asia and the recent slide in the Euro could give the central banks a good reason to accumulate at current levels. Although business confidence held steady in France and increased in Italy, consumer confidence in Germany slid in the month of September. The survey was conducted prior to the German elections, so the fear is that the October survey could be even worse. So once again we face the situation of who faces a more dire fate – the US or Europe. Europe has the benefit of a weaker currency to spur growth, the US does not. The weaker Euro should not only boost exports, but also continue to offset some of the burden of rising oil prices. In terms of politics, there were no new major developments in Germany but over in Italy, it seems that Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi is now having difficulties securing the resignation of Bank of Italy Governor Antonio Fazio. He claims that he has done all in his power to get Fazio to resign, but he stopped short of forcing a resignation. This will probably not be taken well in Italy since it was the government’s lack of initiative to reprimand Fazio when he got involved in various corporate scandals that plunged the country into its current crisis in the first place.

British Pound

According to today’s release by the Confederation of British Industry, only 26 percent of retailers reported sales volume was higher on the year with most respondents obviously taking the other side. Mostly affected by the downturn in consumer spending looked to be any retailer tied to the housing sector. Sellers of furniture, carpets and other durable goods saw the most decline with grocery stores and specialist food providers seeing an actual improvement on an annualized comparison. Nonetheless, the overall disappointing figures still point to the fastest decline in the survey’s 22 year history and has contributed to further speculation that benchmark rates will have to be cut once again in order to stimulate spending. However, overall arguments remain steadfast in favor of continued rate cut dismissals by Bank of England officials as they cast their hawkish eyes over the economy. Contributing to the notion has been increasing focus on the recent upward stock market activity. With higher valued stock, consumers may be more inclined to spend as their net worth increases with their investments. This, coupled with the effects of the most recent 25 basis point reduction filtering through the region, could prove policy makers correct in their conservative stance. Time will only tell.

Japanese Yen

Making a significant jump, small business confidence rose in the Japanese economy for the month of September. The reading is considerably notable on the session as the Shoko Chukin Bank’s index of confidence rose above the 50 level, considered the reference level for growth and expansion. Confidence even rose among retailers, construction companies and other non-manufacturers. This comes as no surprise considering the recent up ticks in everything from the central bank comments to overall gross domestic output. Now with both consumer and business confidence higher, the economy looks poised to make a charge forward. However, once again, consumer spending considerations loom over every optimist as does consumer price deflation. As a result, traders are looking ahead to tonight’s retail trade data and tomorrow’s consumer price index report. Although retail figures are expected to repeat for the most part, consumer prices are expected to tick slightly higher. If the latter does occur, further optimistic comments by Bank of Japan officials will likely follow. Ultimately, with Japanese consumers a relatively conservative breed, further confirmation of a pickup in the economy may foster future spending initiatives.

 

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