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Wednesday March 15, 2006 - 15:01:41 GMT
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Forex and Commodity Market Commentary and Analysis (15 March 2006)

The euro notched gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.2045 level and was supported around the $1.2005 level, a relatively tight range. Technically, the pair is trying to establish a base above the 1.2025/ 30 level, representing the 23.6% retracement of the move from $1.1825 to $1.2090. There’s a lot on tap during the North American session today. First, it was reported that February U.S. import prices fell 0.5% m/m and were up +7.4% y/y, a bit cooler than expected, while export prices were unchanged. The question is how this impacts the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, if at all. Most traders expect the Federal Open Market Committee to raise the federal funds target rate by +25bps to 4.75% in about two weeks, possibly followed by another move on 10 May. Second, the Empire State manufacturing index improved to 31.16. Third, Treasury International Capital flows data for January revealed international purchases of U.S. securities failed to bridge January’s record trade deficit even though portfolio inflows reached US$ 66.0 billion two months ago. December capital inflows were downwardly revised to US$ 53.8 billion from US$56.6 billion. Notably, private foreign investors sold US$ 4 billion in Treasuries in January while Chinese holdings of Treasuries were up US$ 5.9 billion m/m. These data are watched closely especially after yesterday’s Q4 current account data revealed a current account deficit that reached record proportions. The U.S. requires about US$ 2 billion in net portfolio inflows per day just to finance its current account deficit. Traders will pay close attention to comments from Fed Chairman Bernanke later today. In an open letter to a congressional official, Bernanke wrote “In the absence of a shift in market perceptions of the relative attractiveness of U.S. and foreign assets, government policies would likely have only limited effects on the trade balance.” The Fed’s Beige Book will be released later in the day. In eurozone news, European Central Bank Trichet was hawkish last night when he last night said “When you have interest rates which are close to zero in real terms, when you have the lowest rates that a major central bank has ever had (in Europe) since the second world war, then you have an accommodative policy.” The question on traders’ minds is how much more tightening the ECB has left to do. Germany’s IWH institute today reported it estimates German GDP growth will be about 1.7% in 2006. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2075/ 1.2135 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen shed minor ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥117.35 level after encountering resistance around the ¥117.75 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was just below the 50% retracement of the move from ¥121.40 to ¥113.40. As expected, the Japanese government maintained its assessment of the economy this month, noting it is “recovering,” capital spending is “increasing,” and industrial production is “modestly increasing.” The government also predicting the economy may achieve growth of 2.7% in the fiscal year that ends in two weeks. Separately, Koizumi’s government said it “wants (Bank of Japan) to support the economy from the monetary side by keeping the zero interest rate…so that the government’s important goal of pulling the economy out of deflation is achieved…It wouldn’t be favourable to hike the rate quickly.” The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 0.50% to close at ¥16,319.04. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥117.10/ 116.40 levels. The euro gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥141.50 level and was supported around the ¥141.10 level. The British pound and Swiss franc came off vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥204.90 and ¥90.10 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan gained significant ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0377, down from CNY 8.0473 in the exchange-traded market. It is probable that the sharp move lower is more than a coincidence with President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit to the U.S. next month where the Bush administration will talk tough about the yuan exchange rate. Data released in China today saw the M2 money supply up 18.8% y/y at the end of February. Also, People’s Bank of China released a survey of spending expectations and expectations receded to a record low. Moreover, January and February industrial value-added output was up 16.2% y/y to CNY 1.11 trillion.


The British pound climbed higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.7480 level and was supported around the $1.7415 level. Technically, the pair’s intraday low was just below the 50% retracement of the move from $1.7620 to $1.7230. Sterling picked up in the North American session after the release of U.S. economic data. Numbers out in the U.K. today saw the February claimant count of unemployment surge to 919,700, the largest rise since December 1992. Also, headline average earnings rose 3.5% y/y in the three months to January. If anything, these data make it easier for Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to lower interest rates in the coming months, particularly if the spike in energy prices is not resulting in second-round wage effects. Tomorrow’s U.K. retail sales data for February will be very closely watched. Cable offer are cited around the US$ 1.7530 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the £0.6900 figure and was supported around the £0.6880 level.


The Swiss franc appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.2970 level and was capped around the CHF 1.3035 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 38.2% retracement of the move from CHF 1.2555 to CHF 1.3235. Swiss National Bank’s quarterly monetary policy assessment and interest rate announcement are expected tomorrow. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2895 level. The euro and British pound came off vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested bids around the CHF 1.5640 and CHF 2.2685 levels, respectively.


The Australian dollar rallied vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the Aussie tested offers around the US$0.7405 level and was supported around the $0.7365 level. Data released in Australia today saw the March Westpac consumer sentiment index rally to 110.7 from 109.3 in February while the NAB February base metals index established a record high and was up 4.5% m/m. Australian dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.7415 level.


The Canadian dollar appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the C$ 1.1525 level after failing to get above the C$ 1.1575 level. Chartists are eyeing the C$ 1.1515 level as the pair’s next downside target followed by $1.1475. Technically, the pair has now retraced nearly 38.2% of its recent move from C$ 1.1300 to $1.1640. Canadian manufacturing data will be released today. U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$ 1.1565 level.


The New Zealand dollar gained modest ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the kiwi tested offers around the US$ 0.6455 level and was supported around the $0.6415 level. Q4 manufacturing activity data are due in New Zealand tonight. Many kiwi bears expect the pair to give back some gains and target the $0.6275 level. New Zealand dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.6500 figure.

Gold/ Silver

Gold made strong gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the yellow metal tested offers around the US$ 556.90 level and was supported around the $542.40 level. Notably, today’s intraday high is about $20 higher than recent multi-week lows and is about US$ 20 below recent multi-decade highs. Iran’s claim that its nuclear ambitions are “irreversible” has some gold bulls ready to take the pair higher. Silver gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the metal tested offers around the US$ 10.36 level and was supported around the $10.05 level.

Crude oil

Crude oil appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as light, sweet crude futures for April delivery tested offers around the US$ 63.05 level and was supported around the $62.55 level. The United Nations is considering sanctions against Tehran for Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Iranian officials have indicated they will not stop Iranian oil exports as a political weapon. U.S. oil inventory data are due this morning and are expected to evidence continued relatively strong oil stocks.


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