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Thursday February 23, 2006 - 13:48:34 GMT
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Forex and Commodity Market Commentary and Analysis (23 February 2006)

The euro appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.1970 level and was supported around the $1.1890 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was just above the 23.6% retracement of the move from $1.2320 to $1.1850. The common currency gained ground after the German February Ifo business climate index was reported to have printed at 103.3, up from 101.8 in January and its strongest showing in more than fourteen years. The business expectations index rallied to 104.8 from 103.8 and these data cemented the idea the European Central Bank will tighten monetary policy in many traders’ minds, perhaps as early as 2 March. Similarly, GfK reported its March consumer climate index is expected to improve to 4.8 next month from this month’s 4.6 print. The German January import price index will be released tomorrow. In U.S. news, Fed Vice Chairman Ferguson announced his retirement from the Federal Reserve yesterday, effective 28 April. Ferguson will note vote the Federal Open Market Committee meeting scheduled for 27-28 March. Ferguson was a key figure in modernizing the U.S. payments systems, increasing transparency, and improving the regulatory regimes of the U.S. financial system and his departure means President Bush will have appointed every sitting member of the Federal Open Market Committee. Fed Chairman Bernanke will speak tomorrow on central bank evolution after the financial markets close. Yesterday’s US$ 22 billion auction of two-year Treasury notes met with solid demand despite the prospect of additional rate hikes by the Fed. Data released in the U.S. today saw weekly initial jobless claims fall 20,000 to 278,000, still below the psychologically-important 300,000 level. Outgoing Philadelphia Fed President speaks later during North American dealing. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2060 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen moved sharply higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥116.90 level and was capped around the ¥118.50 level. Stops were reached below the ¥117.40 level, representing the 50% retracement of the move from ¥121.40 to ¥113.40. Bank of Japan Governor Fukui’s comments overnight prompted yen buys as the chief said a shift from the central bank’s long-standing quantitative easing policy would take place “immediately” after conditions are met. Fukui added the BoJ will gradually steer interest rates to “neutral levels” and added the consumer price index “is likely to show a clear positive movement from January.” He added the BoJ’s judgment (about a stabilization of consumer prices above zero per cent” will be more important than ever.” Fukui’s remarks represent the most hawkish statements to date about the end of the central bank’s ultraeasy monetary policy. Many traders believe the central bank could begin to unwind its policy as early as 28 April. Dealers shrugged off economic data released overnight that saw Japan register its first trade deficit in five years last month as crude oil prices impacted imports. The deficit of ¥348.9 billion compared with a surplus of ¥193.9 billion in January 2005. Other data released in Japan overnight saw the January corporate services price index off 0.8% m/m while the December tertiary and all-industries indices were up 0.2% and 0.4%, respectively. Capital flows data released overnight saw foreign investors as net buyers of Japanese equities in the week that ended 18 February while Japanese investors were net sellers of overseas securities. The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 1.99% to close at ¥16,096.10. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥116.45/ ¥115.70 levels. The euro shed ground vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥139.55 level and was capped around the ¥141.20 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 38.2% retracement level of the move from ¥143.60 to ¥137.10. The British pound and Swiss franc lost ground vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥204.75 and ¥89.35 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0480, down from CNY 8.0486. People’s Bank of China reported January wholesale prices were up 1.1% y/y and the government announced it will seek to keep the fiscal deficit below 3% of GDP in 2006. Also, Chinese President Hu Jintao called for more sustainable economic growth in China.

The British pound gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.7550 level and was supported around the $1.7415 level. Stops were reached above the $1.7530 level, representing the 50% retracement of the move from $1.7130 to $1.7935. Data released in the U.K. today saw Q4 business investment off 1.0% q/q and up 0.3% y/y. These data will be of concern to policymakers on Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. The BoE’s recently-released quarterly inflation report predicted a “rather modest acceleration” in business investment over the next few months. Q4 GDP data will be released tomorrow. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7570/ 1.7615 levels. The euro weakened vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested bids around the £0.6810 level and was capped around the £0.6835 level.


The Swiss franc appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.3025 level and was capped around the CHF 1.3135 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was just below the 23.6% retracement of the move from CHF 1.2240 to CHF 1.3285. Traders continue to monitor developments in hotspots including Nigeria and Iran. Militants continue to disrupt oil production in the former while the latter’s nuclear ambitions are a major focus of the global community. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2960 level. The euro moved lower vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5585 level while the British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 2.2910 level.


The Australian dollar gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the Aussie tested offers around the US$ 0.7420 level and was supported around the $0.7345 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right at the 50% retracement of the move from $0.6850 to $0.7985. Data released in Australia today saw average weekly earnings climb 0.4% in the three months to November compared with the three months to August and were up 5.0% y/y. Also, it was reported that Q4 private new capital expenditures were up 9.2%, compared with a 2.9% hike in Q3, and were up 22.5% y/y. Aussie offers are cited around the US$ 0.7450 level.


The Canadian dollar gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the C$ 1.1460 level and was capped around the C$ 1.1500 figure. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 61.8% retracement of the move from C$ 1.1375 to C$1.1610. The pair continues to be dominated by Canada’s surpluses, strong commodity prices, and a hawkish Bank of Canada. U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$1.1520/ 50 levels.


The New Zealand dollar moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the kiwi tested offers around the US$ 0.6620 level and was supported around the $0.6570 level. The pair has been largely offered this month after running out of steam around the $0.6915 level. The prospect of a monetary policy shift in Japan has seen a lot of unwinding of carry trades involving the kiwi, putting downward pressure on it. New Zealand’s weakening economic conditions are also negatively impacting the pair. New Zealand dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.6645 level.


Gold depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as gold tested bids around the US$ 551.00 figure and was capped around the $554.60 level. The pair briefly tested bids below the psychologically-important $550.00 figure yesterday after the release of firm U.S. headline consumer prices for January. Gold traders believe option COMEX option expirations at the NYMEX today could keep the pair trading in a relatively narrow range. Traders also shorted gold today after the World Gold Council reported 2005 global demand for gold fell 15% y/y to 943 tons. Gold bids are seen around the $535 level.

Crude oil

Crude oil futures came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as light, sweet crude for April delivery traded as low as $60.77 per barrel after settling around $61.01 yesterday. Traders shorted oil on expectations of rising U.S. stockpiles and shrugged off fears regarding supply disruptions in key producing countries. Data to be released in the U.S. today are expected to show the crude stocks have increased by 1.1 million barrels last week. The International Atomic Energy Agency convenes a meeting on 6 March to deliberate the next steps regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions followed by an OPEC meeting on 8 March.


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