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Tuesday December 20, 2005 - 11:26:10 GMT
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Forex: Mellon FX Daily - U.S. Edition

Key Points
• USD-JPY steady – EUR-USD eases back in Europe.
• US housing market data weakens again.
• UK - mortgage lending up, RICS survey shows rise in house prices.
• Canadian CPI, US PPI and housing starts feature today – NZ current account tonight.

Market Outlook

USD-JPY continues to stabilise but has yet to break through the 116.50-80 area we talked about yesterday. However, such a move is favoured today or tomorrow and this should open the way to 117.60 at least.

EUR-USD has weakened a touch despite the disappointing US housing market data seen yesterday. Downside remains tentatively favoured, although this may prove to be more difficult if further housing market weakness shows up in Friday’s new home sales or today’s housing starts. 1.1930 is initial support ahead of 1.1850-1.1900. Overall, trading is likely to remain fairly quiet.

The US National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Index showed a further sharp fall yesterday to its lowest level since April 2003 when sentiment was depressed by the Iraq war. Before that, apart from a one-off spike down to 55 in August 2002, one has to go back to the very depressed levels of 2001 to see such weakness. The latest fall was due to weakness in current sales and especially buyer enquiries. This is clearly a warning sign about the housing sector, although any reading above 50 still suggests a positive sales outlook. Some followthrough weakness in the mainline indicators like new home sales and existing home sales may be required before the market fully takes note.

The UK RICS survey showed a small net balance of respondents reporting higher house prices over the previous three months. As noted yesterday, this number is subject to large swings (see chart) as it is a survey of ‘direction’ rather than the actual ‘magnitude’ of any rises or falls. However, together with this morning’s rise in mortgage lending (strongest since July 2004) it does offer more support to the notion that the housing market is stabilising, with London leading the way amidst optimism about financial market bonuses providing liquidity to the market. This is likely to support the market into the spring, although the outlook is less clear beyond that. Some minor strength in the housing market is one of the reasons why we see any MPC rate cut as possibly being deferred until May. Another is that the February meeting may come too soon as the MPC will still not have seen the official January retail sales data. Because of the volatility of sales over the Xmas and New Year, it is desirable to see Nov, Dec and Jan data before taking a considered view on the state of spending over the period. EURGBP has once again shied away from the 0.6825 level – support at 0.6750-60.

Day Ahead
Canada – CPI is due but with the BoC’s core CPI measure having been very well behaved (1.4% to 1.9% range over the past 12 months) it will take something unusual to alter BoC policy expectations.

US – core PPI is likely to confirm the subdued inflation background that has emerged during the second half of 2005. Housing starts, also due, have remained fairly strong through 2005, but the uptrend has flattened out since the spring.

New Zealand – tonight’s Q3 current account deficit could have an impact on the NZD. The data is subject to a fair amount of volatility but generally over the past year or so this deficit has typically come out larger than expected. In the year ending Q2 the current account deficit was at 8% of GDP and a slight increase on this seems likely.

Data/event EDT Consensus*

CA CPI (Nov) y/y 07.00 +2.0%
CA CPIX (Nov) y/y 07.00 +1.4%
US Chain store sls (w/e Dec 17) w/w 07.45 +0.9% last
US PPI (Nov) m/m 08.30 -0.4%
US PPI core (Nov) m/m 08.30 +0.2%
US Housing starts (Nov) 08.30 2015k
US Redbook sls (w/e Dec 17) m/m 08.55 -0.3% last
NZ Current account (Q3) 16.45 -NZ$4.8bn
US ABC consumer conf (w/e Dec 18) 17.00 -13 last

Latest data Actual Consensus*
US NAHB housing index (Dec) 57 61
GB RICS house prices (Nov) +4% -5%
GB BBA mortgage lending (Nov) +£5.1bn +£4.2bn
GB PSNCR (Nov) £9.3bn £8.8bn
EU Trade balance (Oct) €0.0bn €0.7bn
IT Ind orders (Oct) m/m -1.1% +1.2%
* Consensus unless stated

2005, Mellon Financial Corporation Note: Although obtained from sources believed by us to be reliable, Mellon Financial Corporation and its affiliates cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information upon which this report is based. This report does not purport to disclose the risks or benefits of entering into particular transactions and should not be construed as advice in any specific instance. The views in this report constitute our judgement as of this date and are subject to change without notice.


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