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Friday January 20, 2006 - 15:02:01 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (20 January 2006)

The euro scored marginal gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.2115 level and was supported around the $1.2140 level. Technically, today’s intraday high represents the 50% retracement of the move from $1.2590 to $1.1640. San Francisco Fed President Yellen spoke yesterday and reiterated the Fed’s tightening cycle is nearing an end. Many traders are split over exactly when the Fed will end its campaign of interest rate hikes. One school of thought suggests Federal Open Market Committee policymakers will raise rates one more time, by +25bps at the end of this month. Others believe the Fed is likely to lift borrowing costs again on 28 March before ending. The Fed has reported that upcoming economic data will dictate its policy moves more than they have been. Some dealers sold dollars later in North American dealing yesterday after the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index printed at 3.3 for January, down from December’s 10.9 level and the lowest reading since June. Data released in the U.S. today saw the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index print at 93.4 while the current conditions index came in at 112. The headline number was stronger than expected and compares to December’s final reading of 91.5. In eurozone news, the Financial Times reported the German government will seek an amicable agreement with the European Commission over Germany’s public deficit. Traders are closely watching geopolitical events including attacks on Nigeria’s oil pipelines and Iran’s nuclear threats. Also, crude oil futures and the price of gold are creeping higher and could impact the Fed’s policy, particularly if inflation pressures seep through to the consumer level. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.1575 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥115.15 level and was capped around the ¥115.65 level. Technically, today’s intraday low is right around the 38.2% retracement of the move from ¥118.15 to ¥113.40. A move through today’s intraday low opens up the ¥114.95/ 50 levels and spotlights the ¥113.85 level, the 38.2% retracement of the move from ¥101.65 to ¥121.40. The yen gained ground on many of its crosses and this was precipitated by Bank of Japan’s first economic upgrade in five months. The central bank reported the economy is now evidencing a “steady” recovery, a little more optimistic than the government’s assessment released yesterday. BoJ Governor Fukui today said consumer prices are clearly stabilizing and intimated the central bank will likely begin to unwind its long-standing quantitative easing policy during the new fiscal year that begins in April. Fukui added he expects core CPI to “show a rising trend soon” but added a change in policy will see interest rates remain “at extremely low levels and then will gradually be adjusted to levels that reflect economic fundamentals.” In other words, Fukui is suggesting it will take years for interest rate policy to normalize in Japan. The central bank voted 7-2 to keep monetary policy unchanged in its monetary policy meeting overnight. The Nikkei 225 stock index gained fractional ground overnight to close at ¥15,696.69. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥114.50 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥139.00 figure and was capped around the ¥139.75 level. The British pound and Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥202.35 and ¥89.50 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0643, down from CNY 8.0665 in over-the-counter trading. In the more liquid exchange-traded market, the pair closed at CNY 8.0601, its lowest level following People’s Bank of China’s yuan revaluation on 21 July 2005. A government report issued today predicts China’s economy will expand by 8.8% in 2006.

The British pound rebounded vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.7675 level and was supported around the $1.7535 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was just below the 38.2% retracement of the move from $1.7130 to $1.7795. Data released in the U.K. today saw BBA December mortgage lending growth at its highest rate since June 2004 while CML mortgage lending printed at £26.3 billion, its strongest December on record. These data are important because they evidence a stabilization in the all-important U.K. housing sector. Many dealers believe Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee will tighten policy again, perhaps as early as March, and such a move would likely result in additional mortgage and housing market activity. Other data released today saw December retail sales rise 0.4% m/m, consistent with forecasts. This represented the fifth consecutive monthly increase in sales and is indicative of a decent holiday sales period in the U.K. On an annualized basis, the 4.0% gain was the strongest annual increase since November 2004. Retail sales account for about 21% of U.K. GDP and some economists believe that will result in an additional 0.3% of economic growth for Q4 2005. Cable offers are cited around the US$1.7705 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the £0.6845 level and was capped around the £0.6880 level.


The Swiss franc gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.2805 level and failed to get above the CHF 1.2885 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 38.2% retracement of the move from CHF 1.2675 to CHF 1.2890. Traders are curious to see if yesterday’s warning from Osama bin Laden about further terror attacks in the U.S. will result in any safe-haven buying of the Swiss franc. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2780 level. The euro weakened vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5500 figure while the British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 2.2665 level.


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