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Tuesday February 14, 2006 - 14:36:07 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (14 February 2006)

The euro spun lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.1860 level and was capped around the $1.1920 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 23.6% retracement of the move from $1.2590 to $1.1640. A few factors contributed to the common currency’s intraday losses. First, it was reported that German gross domestic product was unchanged q/q in the final three months of 2005, defying expectations of a +0.2% increase. It was also reported that eurozone GDP printed at +0.3% q/q in the final quarter of 2005 and was up +1.7% y/y. Second, the German ZEW headline business sentiment index fell 1.2 index points this month to +69.8, significantly below expectations. Third, stronger-than-expected January U.S. retail sales data were released that evidenced headline growth of +2.3% while the ex-autos component was up +2.2%. These data are important and suggest final private demand remained relatively robust in the U.S. after the holiday period. They are also important because they suggest the weaker-than-expected advance U.S. Q4 GDP data that saw a +1.1% climb in economic activity will likely be upwardly revised. Even with today’s poor German economic news, many dealers believe the European Central Bank will tighten interest rates on 2 March, lifting the refinancing rate by +25bps to 2.50%. On this topic, European Central Bank’s Juncker said the ECB’s decision would be a “responsible” one that does not inhibit growth. The big item on traders’ radar this week remains tomorrow’s and Thursday’s testimony from new Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke. Dealers are very curious to see if he emphasizes risks to economic growth or risks to inflation in his remarks, or presents a balanced view. The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to raise interest rates on 28 March by +25bps and some market participants are eyeing a hike on 10 May also. Dallas Fed President Fisher speaks later today. Cleveland Fed President Pianalto spoke yesterday and characterized the economic data from January as “reasonably good” and intimated Q4 GDP results could be upwardly revised. In other ECB news, Bundesbank’s Stark was officially nominated as the replacement to the outgoing Otmar Issing who is stepping down on 31 May. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.1935/ 1.1985 levels.

¥/ CNY

The yen gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥117.10 level and was capped around the ¥117.80 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 38.2% retracement of the move from ¥113.40 to ¥119.40. Traders remain nervous that Bank of Japan’s Policy Board will vote to begin to unwind Japan’s long-standing quantitative easing policy as early as next month and many expect the yen to strengthen appreciably when this happens. Data released in Japan overnight saw January department store sales climb 0.1% y/y to ¥164.5 billion while January Tokyo-area condominium sales were off 7.0% y/y. Other data released overnight saw January corporate bankruptcies off 8.7% m/m while January corporate failures were off 3.7% m/m. Dealers report traders are also unwinding their carry trades in which they have borrowed yen to invest in higher yielding currencies. An appreciating yen makes this type of trade less tenable and less profitable. The December leading economic index and coincident index will be released tonight followed by Q4 gross domestic product data. The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 1.93% to close at ¥16,184.87. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥116.55/ ¥115.30 levels. The euro weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥139.50 level after failing to get above the ¥140.20 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 38.2% retracement of the move from ¥143.60 to ¥137.10. The British pound and Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥203.30 and ¥89.55 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan lost marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar in over-the-counter trading with the greenback ending the day at CNY 8.0475, up from CNY 8.0464. In exchange-trading activity, the greenback closed at CNY 8.0485, up from CNY 8.0458. The Bush administration yesterday called on China to make the yuan more flexible in terms of floating freely and China countered overnight by saying “China's determination to push forward its foreign exchange mechanism reform is unchanged.” China’s trade surplus was about US$ 101.9 billion in 2005 and this is a politically-contentious issue for Chinese officials. The Chinese media quoted People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou as saying there is no need for China to adjust its interest rates now.

The British pound extended recent losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.7300 figure and was unable to move above the $1.7445 level. Stops were reached below the $1.7320 level, representing the 76.4% retracement of the move from $1.7130 to $1.7935. Sterling crumbed after the release of January U.K. inflation data that saw consumer prices print at 1.9% last month, equal to December’s downwardly revised tally. This represents the first time inflation has been below the Bank of England’s 2.0% target since May 2005 and increases the likelihood that Bank of England will ease monetary policy. Tomorrow’s quarterly inflation report from BoE will be closely scrutinized by traders to see if it yields any clues on the central bank’s likely policy path. Retail sales data will follow on Thursday and a weak showing could pressure the pound further. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7390. The euro gained ground vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the £0.6860 level and was supported around the £0.6830 level.


The Swiss franc depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.3135 level and was supported around the CHF 1.3050 level. Today’s intraday high represented the pair’s strongest print since 3 January and opens up the CHF 1.3195 level as an upside target followed by CHF 1.3285. Some traders are reluctant to short the Swiss franc too much on account of the news that Iran has started to enrich uranium again in defiance of warnings from the global community. Iran’s nuclear ambitions could see the franc benefit from safe-haven flows. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.3045/ 1.2975 levels. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5585 level while the British pound weakened vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested bids around the CHF 2.2685 level.


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