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Wednesday March 15, 2006 - 11:39:51 GMT
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Forex: Mellon FX Daily - U.S. Edition

Key Points
• USD remains soft amidst lower rate expectations and reminder of BoP problems.
• US information today - NY Fed survey, TIC data, NAHB housing market index, Beige Book and Fed speakers – will all carry significance for short-term direction.
• USD-JPY facing critical moment ahead of 117.00-25.
• Australian data continues to show improvement.
• UK labour market data weaker than expected.

Market Outlook

The USD has remained soft overnight and current momentum may see EUR-USD extending a little further today, possibly up into the 1.2050-1.2100 resistance area. Above 1.2100 would be a more positive development. Part of yesterday’s damage was inflicted by the wider than expected US current account deficit, while ECB comments over the past 24 hours (Trichet, Weber and Liebscher) have all been slightly hawkish. The move was further fuelled yesterday by a softening in US rate expectations and a dovish report attributed on newswires to Medley Global Advisors.

However, sentiment will remain fickle to developments in the data. Key today in this regard will be the NY Fed and NAHB housing market indices, although the TIC portfolio numbers could also exert an influence after yesterday’s current account data (see below for a discussion of these releases). The NY Fed index should be reasonably solid, although there is downside risk on housing. The Fed’s Beige Book is also out.

The JPY is also in recovery mode and critical this week will be whether USD-JPY can hold above 117.00. Below there would suggest that it wants to move into the lower half of the broader trading range at 115.50-119.50. Above 117.75 would suggest some uplift today.

UK labour market data this morning was weaker than expected. The 14.6k rise in the claimant count was biggest m/m advance since December 1992. The ILO measure showed unemployment in the 3-mths ending January 2006 at 1.528m, 37k higher than the Aug-Oct 05 period and 109k up from the level seen in the 3-mths ending January 2005. Trend labour demand is clearly weakening and there is a danger that this starts to weigh on the consumer more heavily as the year progresses. The weakness in headline earnings growth suggests lower bonuses this January compared to last year. Earnings ex-bonuses were in line with the trends seen in recent months. GBP was slightly weaker after the release, although market interest rate expectations (at the short-end) only softened marginally. EUR-GBP needs to get above 0.6925 to attract some interest and even then upside should be limited to 0.6980-0.7000 for now. However, the directional basis remains to the upside on a 1-3mth view, as the news flow on interest rates is likely to favour the EUR.

Australian economic data continues to show improvement, with the consumer sentiment index rising a further 1.3% in March to its highest level since August. Coupled with other recent strength in private sector credit, retail sales and employment, rate expectations have been edging higher, but thus far not dramatically enough to really influence the AUD. However, such developments continue to leave the AUD in a favourable light against the NZD, where rate expectations are deteriorating.

Day Ahead
US – the NY Fed survey, latest TIC data, NAHB housing index and the Beige Book all feature, while more Fed speakers also appear after-hours. The NY Fed survey (and the Philly Fed version tomorrow) will be key in determining sentiment about underlying activity, while the tone of the Fed’s Beige Book will reveal how the Fed will possibly be viewing the economic backdrop at the March 28 meeting.

The latest TIC portfolio data will need to be unusual to attract market attention. However, after yesterday’s wide current account deficit the market will be sensitive to any extreme news (good or bad) regarding the ability of the US to fund that deficit, at least via long-term securities (maturity 12-mths and beyond), which the TIC data measures. The NAHB housing index will be closely watched to see whether there has been any further deterioration in housing prospects. This index slumped lower in Q4, but has been flat at these lower levels ever since, recording 57 in Dec, Jan and Feb. The bias is for more weakness in this data. Fed speakers are also due tonight and both will speak about the economy. Comments by Yellen in particular will be closely watched after her remarks earlier in the week about the need to be careful about not tightening too much.

Data/event EDT Consensus*

US NY Fed index (Mar) 08.30 19.0
US Import prices (Feb, nsa) y/y 08.30 +8.8% last
US Imp prices ex-petrol (Feb, nsa) y/y 08.30 +2.4% last
CA Manu shipments (Jan) m/m 08.30 +0.4%
US TIC intl portfolio balance (Jan) 09.00 +$56.6bn last
US NAHB housing market index (Mar) 13.00 56
US Beige Book for Mar 28 FOMC 14.00
GB RICS house prices (Feb) 19.30 10%
US Fed’s Guynn spks on economy 19.30
US Fed’s Yellen spks on economy 21.00

Latest data Actual Consensus*
US ABC consumer conf (w/e Mar 13) -8 -9 last
AU Consumer sentiment (Mar) +1.3% +1.8% last
NO Trade balance (Feb) NOK29.2bn NOK32.6bn
GB Claimant count (Feb) +14.6k +3.7k
GB Average earnings (Jan) 3m y/y +3.5% +3.9%
GB Earnings ex-bonuses (Jan) 3m y/y +3.8% +3.8%
* Consensus unless stated

2005, Mellon Financial Corporation Note: Although obtained from sources believed by us to be reliable, Mellon Financial Corporation and its affiliates cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information upon which this report is based. This report does not purport to disclose the risks or benefits of entering into particular transactions and should not be construed as advice in any specific instance. The views in this report constitute our judgement as of this date and are subject to change without notice.
Ian Gunner 44 20 7163 5996 06.40 EDT Monday May 31 2005


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