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Thursday January 12, 2006 - 16:13:41 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (12 January 2006)

The euro receded sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.2010 level after encountering selling pressure around the $1.2160 level. The common currency was sold-off sharply after European Central Bank President was less hawkish than expected at his monthly press conference. Trichet outlined the upside risks to inflation and was optimistic about the eurozone economy but he also talked about the downside risks to growth. Recent EMU-12 economic data have improved, including German data, and traders were looking for more of an indication that the ECB would likely tighten monetary policy in Q1 or Q2. Earlier, the ECB decided to keep monetary policy unchanged with the refinancing rate steady at 2.25%. The ECB raised interest rates on 1 December by +25bps for the first time in more than five years. It now appears likely the ECB will not raise rates before March at the earliest. The common currency was also pressured by U.S. economic data that were released today. The November trade deficit fell 5.8% m/m to US$ 64.2 billion from US$ 68.1 billion, below forecasts. One politically-sensitive component of the data saw the U.S.’s trade deficit with China to US$ 18.5 billion from US$ 16.7 billion one year ago. Treasury International Capital portfolio flows data will be released next week and is expected to show the U.S. easily financed its trade deficit two months ago. Other data released in the U.S. today saw weekly initial jobless claims climb 17,000 to 309,000 from a revised 292,000 last week. Additionally, the December import price index fell 0.2% from a revised 1.8% decline. Excluding fuel prices, import prices were up 0.2%. Notably, headline import prices have been up 7.9% over the past twelve months, up from 2004’s increase of 6.7%. December export prices climbed 0.1%. In eurozone news, German 2005 GDP climbed 0.9%, down from 1.6% in 2004 and its budget deficit was reported at 3.5% of GDP. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2110 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥113.40 level and was unable to get above the ¥114.35 level overnight. Major stops were hit around the ¥113.60/ 55 level, representing the 61.8% retracement of the move from ¥108.75 to ¥121.40. Japanese finance minister met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Snow yesterday and discussed the global economic outlook and the foreign exchange markets. Tanigaki is in Washignton, D.C. to meet with Snow, outgoing Fed Chairman Greenspan, and other U.S. officials about Japan’s structural reform. Yesterday’s meeting did not yield clues as to what extent exchange rates would be discussed at the G8 finance ministers’ meeting in Moscow early next month. Vice Finance Minister Hosokawa verbally intervened overnight saying he is watching FX markets closely. The yen realized a strong day on its crosses, and there is a belief among many traders that Asian currencies will become stronger. Bank of Korea announced that it is keeping its call rate unchanged at 3.75% this month and BoK Governor Park Seung said “the won is rising too rapidly.” Park also pledged to work with the government to deal with “market-destabilizing factors.” Data released in Japan today saw the December money supply measure climb 2.0% y/y, below forecasts and down from November’s 2.1% level. Also, December bank lending was off 0.2% y/y for the 96th consecutive monthly decline. The Nikkei reported overseas investors purchased a record ¥10.32 trillion of Japanese equities last year, the fifth consecutive year that overseas accounts were net buyers. The Nikkei 225 stock index closed at a fresh five-month high, up 0.50% to ¥16,445.19. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥112.75 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥137.15 level and was capped around the ¥138.80 level. The cross hit stops below the ¥137.35 level, representing the 61.8% retracement of the move from ¥133.45 to ¥143.60. The intraday low on the cross was right around the 50% retracement of the move from ¥130.60 to ¥143.60. The British pound and Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥200.65 and ¥88.50 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0682, down from CNY 8.0685.

The British pound depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.7580 level and was capped around the $1.7725 level. As expected, Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted today to keep monetary policy unchanged with the headline repo rate steady at 4.5%. Minutes from today’s MPC decision will be released on 25 January and will be closely scrutinized to see if any members voted for a monetary easing this month. MPC member Nickell voted last month for lower interest rates and many traders believe the central bank will ease policy in H1 2006. One item on the BoE’s radar now is clearly wage negotiations to see if the current higher-than-expected level of inflation is having market second-round effects. Data released in the U.K. today saw November manufacturing output climb 0.4% m/m, the largest rise since April. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7740 level. The euro weakened vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the £0.6820 level and was capped around the £0.6880 level.


The Swiss franc came off sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.2890 level and remained supported around the CHF 1.2720 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 38.2% retracement of the move from CHF 1.2240 to CHF 1.3285. Swiss National Bank Chairman Roth was quoted as saying the central bank is aiming for “neutral” interest rates, a comment that many believe represents increased hawkishness from SNB which last tightened interest rates in December. Traders are also closely watching events in the Middle East where Iran has broken United Nations’ seals at some nuclear sites. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is said to be planning an emergency meeting. The Swiss franc could benefit from safe-haven flows if the tension becomes heightened. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2730 level. The euro and British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested offers around the CHF 1.5495 and 2.2675 levels, respectively.


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