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Thursday March 16, 2006 - 14:48:50 GMT
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Forex and Commodity Market Commentary and Analysis (16 March 2006)

The euro appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.2130 level and was supported around the $1.2035 level. Today’s intraday high represents the common currency’s strongest print since 1 February and was just below the 61.8% retracement of the move from $1.2325 to $1.1825. The pair gained ground after it was reported that U.S. February headline consumer prices were up +0.1%, as was the ex-food and energy “core” component. The CPI was also up +2.1% y/y, cooler than the data series peak of +2.4%. Albeit core CPI price pressures are above the Fed’s perceived comfort zone, this measure is not the Fed’s preferred method of calculating price pressures. Most traders believe the Federal Open Market Committee will lift the federal funds rate by +25bps to 4.75% at the end of this month and then possibly again on 10 May. Other data released today saw February housing starts off 7.9% and weekly initial jobless claims climbed 5,000 to 309,000. San Francisco Fed President Yellen overnight said “I view decisions about the stance of policy going forward as quite data-dependent. On the one hand, I will be alert to any incoming data suggesting that economic growth is less likely to slow to a sustainable pace or that inflation is less likely to remain contained. It's hard to find evidence suggesting upward inflationary pressures" in wage data. Yellen added “"It appears the economy is near full usage of resources but it's not quite clear whether we're slightly above capacity or below it.” Atlanta Fed President Guynn said the relatively low Q4 GDP data was likely an “aberration.” The Fed’s monthly Beige Book reported economic growth remains “moderate” and there were no signs of rising labour cost pressures. The common currency appreciated overnight after a newswire quoted anonymous sources from the European Central Bank as saying the ECB is targeting a “neutral” level of interest rates, closer to 3.5%. European bond futures spiked lower on the news with the German June bund future off 22 points. In other eurozone news, EMU-12 February harmonized consumer prices were up 2.3% y/y, unchanged from provisional estimates and off from January’s 2.4% pace. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2225 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen lost marginal ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥117.90 level and was supported around the ¥117.30 level. The pair failed to sustain a move to intraday highs that followed comments from Bank of Japan Governor Fukui who said “It is too early to discuss when to end the zero interest rate policy, as we have only just ended our quantitative easing framework.” The pair moved higher on that comment as it shows the central bank is in no hurry to raise interest rates and reduce the U.S. dollar’s relative yield advantage over the yen. The central bank last week ended its multi-year quantitative easing framework in an attempt to normalize monetary policy and many traders believe the BoJ could hike rates once before the end of 2006. Japan’s fiscal year ends in about two weeks. Data released overnight saw foreign investors reduce their net purchases of Japanese equities last week. The January leading and coincident indicators will be released in Japan overnight. The Nikkei 225 stock index lost 1.37% to close at ¥16,096.21. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥116.45 level. The euro gained ground vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested offers around the ¥142.35 level and was supported around the ¥141.55 level. Stops were hit above the ¥142.00 figure, representing the 76.4% retracement of the move from ¥143.60 to ¥137.10. The British pound and Swiss franc moved higher vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested offers around the ¥205.00 and ¥90.50 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0392 in over-the-counter trade, up from CNY 8.0386, and at CNY 8.0390 in the exchange-traded market. People’s Bank of China reported February wholesale prices were up 0.7% y/y and it was also reported that January – February fixed-asset investment was up 26.6% y/y. It was reported that three U.S. Senators will visit China next week, including Schumer and Graham, who are sponsoring protectionist legislation against China for not revaluing its yuan enough.

The British pound moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested offers around the US$ 1.7525 level and was supported around the $ 1.7440 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 61.8% retracement of the move from $1.7130 to $1.7935. RICS reported the U.K. housing market has improved to levels not seen since the middle of 2004. Also, it was reported that February retail sales were up 0.5% m/m and 2.1% y/y, just above the central bank’s 2.0% ceiling target for inflation. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7560/ 1.7600 levels. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the £0.6925 level and was supported around the £0.6895 level.


The Swiss franc moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the CHF 1.2905 level after running out of steam around the CHF 1.3000 figure. Today’s low represents the pair’s lowest print since 3 February. As expected, Swiss National Bank lifted interest rates by +25bps today with the three-month Libor range now at 0.75%-1.75%. SNB intends to keep the rate around 1.25%. As SNB continues to tighten, the Swiss franc is likely to continue firming as it will reduce the incentive for traders to engage in franc-selling carry trades to finance investments in higher-yielding currencies. Traders also continue to monitor heightened geopolitical tensions, particularly in Iran, Iraq, and Nigeria. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2875 level. The euro and British pound rallied vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the crosses tested offers around the CHF 1.5685 and CHF 2.2690 levels, respectively.


The Australian dollar moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the Aussie tested bids around the US$ 0.7355 level and was capped around the $0.7395 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 50% retracement of the move from $0.7485 to $0.7300 and stops were hit below the $0.7370 level, representing the 38.2% retracement of the same range. Australian dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.7415 level.


The Canadian dollar was mostly unchanged vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the C$1.1535 level and was capped around the $1.1595 level. Data released in Canada today saw February consumer prices rise 2.2% y/y, down from January’s brisk 2.8% rate and largely attributable to a pullback in lower gasoline prices. U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$ 1.1620 level.


The New Zealand dollar extended recent losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the kiwi tested bids around the US$ 0.6365 level and was capped around the $0.6470 level. Prime Minister Clark verbally intervened overnight saying the kiwi is not weak and added its deprecation is positive for exports. New Zealand dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.6450 level.

Gold/ Silver

Gold moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the yellow metal tested bids around the US$ 550.30 level after testing offers around the $556.30 level. The pair moved to intraday highs earlier in the day on concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and also seasonal demand from India. Silver weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today and tested bids around the US$ 10.24 level after running out of steam around the $10.36. Traders await regulatory approval for a silver-backed, exchange-traded fund in the U.S.

Crude oil

Crude oil lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as light, sweet crude for April delivery tested bids around the US$ 61.74 level after testing offers around the $62.70 level. Data released yesterday in the U.S. saw crude supplies increase for a fifth straight week, up 4.8 million barrels in the week ending 10 March. This means crude inventories are at their highest level in seven tears. The United Nations’ Security Council convenes on tomorrow to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions and this will likely impact the price of crude. OPEC today reiterated it expects crude prices to stabilize in the upper $50s or low $60s.


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