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Wednesday February 15, 2006 - 14:37:04 GMT
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Forex Market Commentary and Analysis (15 February 2006)

The euro was largely unchanged vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.1930 level and was supported around the $1.1900 figure. Today’s tight range was attributable to traders’ unwillingness to put on new positions ahead of new Fed Chairman Bernanke’s first congressional testimony as the new chief. Bernanke has pledged to “make continuity with the policies and policy strategies of the Greenspan Fed a top priority” thus many dealers do not expect any earth-shattering revelations from him today and tomorrow. Given the recent healthy run of U.S. economic data, many traders believe he will remain neutral-to-hawkish in his interest rate assessment. Other important topics that traders are curious to see if Bernanke will comment on include inflation-targeting, the significance of the inverted yield curve, and the federal budget – a taboo topic that former Fed Chairman Greenspan tackled with relish. The Federal Open Market Committee next deliberates monetary policy on 28 March and most market participants anticipate a +25bps monetary tightening then. Traders are more at odds over whether or not the Fed will pull the trigger at the 10 May meeting. Hawks point to a relatively tight labour market that is near full employment and increasing wage price pressures as reasons the Fed may have a couple of more moves left. Doves cite factors such as a possible asset bubble in the U.S. housing sector as one reason the Fed may be loath to push the fed funds target rate up much further. Data released in the U.S. today saw the February Empire State manufacturing survey print at a stronger-than-expected 20.3 this month, up from 20.1 last month. Notably, the prices paid component rose to 52.8 from 46.6 last month. Also, December Treasury International Capital portfolio flows data were released today and they printed at US$ 56.6 billion, a sizable drop from November’s US$ 91.6 billion pace. These data are important because traders use them to gauge whether or not the U.S. financed its massive current account deficit with international portfolio flows data. These data pressured the dollar because they suggest foreigners’ appetite for U.S. assets diminished at the end of last year. Additionally, January industrial production came off while capacity utilization moved higher. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.1980/ 1.2060 levels.

¥/ CNY

The yen depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥117.75 level and was supported around the ¥117.30 level. Technically, the pair continues to orbit the 50% retracement of the move from ¥121.40 to ¥113.40. Chartists are eyeing the ¥117.10 as short-term support for the greenback while the ¥117.95/ ¥118.35 levels are linked to some selling pressure. Data released in Japan today saw the December leading index upwardly revised to 81.8 from the preliminary reading of 80.0 while the coincident indicator remained unchanged at 100.0. Q4 Japanese GDP data will be released tomorrow night and traders are curious to see if the GDP deflator moved into positive territory from the previous reading of -1.4% y/y. The Nikkei 225 stock index shed 1.56% to close at ¥15,932.83. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥116.55/ ¥115.30 levels. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥140.35 level and was supported around the ¥139.80 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 50% retracement of the move from ¥143.60 to ¥137.10. The British pound and Swiss franc gained ground vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested offers around the ¥204.90 and ¥90.05 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan lost marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar in over-the-counter trading as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0479, up from CNY 8.0475. In exchange-traded activity, the greenback depreciated and closed at CNY 8.0469. The Chinese media reported People’s Bank of China will not revalue the yuan again now and quoted a PBOC official as saying China would maintain an “appropriate interest rate gap with the U.S.” to limit yuan speculation.

The British pound rocketed higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.7480 level and was supported around the $1.7330 level. Stops were hit above the $1.7390 level, representing the 23.6% retracement of the move from $1.8495 to $1.7045. Sterling leapt higher after the release of a more neutral Bank of England quarterly inflation report than was expected. The central bank gave no indication that interest rates may be trimmed in the foreseeable future and in fact added economic growth will pick up to above its historical growth rate level in the short-term. Consumer price inflation data released in the U.K. this week printed below the central bank’s 2.0% target for the second consecutive month and more traders began to price in a rate cut. Many covered their shorts today following the inflation report. March and June short sterling interest rate futures both dropped after the release of the report. BoE Governor King spoke after the released of the report and said low interest rates and an improving housing market “are likely to support domestic demand.” King characterized the central bank’s view regarding economic growth and inflation expectations as “benign” and added he expects a “relatively modest recovery” in business investment. Data released in the U.K, today saw the ILO unemployment measure rise 108,000 in the three months to December to 1.541 million, the highest measure since October 2002, while the unemployment rate inched up to 5.1%. In contrast, however, the claimant count of unemployment improved in January. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7530 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the £0.6830 level and was capped around the £0.6870 level.


The Swiss franc gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.3035 level and was capped around the CHF 1.3085 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 23.6% retracement of the move from CHF 1.2240 to 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 1.2970 level. The euro came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5565 level while the British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 2.2795 level.


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