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Friday March 17, 2006 - 15:24:46 GMT
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Forex and Commodity Market Commentary and Analysis (17 March 2006)

The euro was little-changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested offers around the US$ 1.2195 level and was supported around the $1.2150 level. Today’s intraday high was the common currency’s strongest print since 27 January and dealers are curious to see if and when the pair will absorb the $1.2200 figure. The dollar reclaimed some ground after the release of decent economic data that saw February industrial production print up +0.7%, just below expectations for a +0.8% increase. Also, it was reported that capacity utilization printed at 81.2%, just below the forecast of 81.4% but up from 80.9 in January. Other data released today saw mid-March University of Michigan consumer sentiment print at 86.7. The big question on traders’ minds remains when the Federal Open Market Committee will end its long-term monetary tightening cycle. The Fed funds futures market now expects the fed funds target rate to peak at 5% in May rather than 5.25% in June. This means most traders see a +25bps hike later this month but the market is pricing in about a 65% chance of a rate hike on 10 May, down from 86% on Wednesday and 100% on Monday. In eurozone news, Q4 EMU-12 labour costs were up 2.4% y/y, up from Q3’s 2.3% y/y level. Additionally, EMU-12 January industrial output was unchanged m/m and up 2.5% y/y, a little cooler than expected. ECB’s Weber defended the practice on incorporating monetary aggregates in policymaking decision and ECB President Trichet said its inclusion has been “absolutely fundamental” to the ECB’s success. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2225 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the ¥115.70 level and was capped around the ¥116.95 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 61.8% retracement of the move from ¥113.40 to ¥119.40, its lowest print since 3 March. Data released in Japan overnight saw the January leading index downwardly revised to 81.8 from the preliminary 85.0 print. It was also reported that Chinese and Japanese finance officials will convene next week. Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Iwata spoke about the central bank’s recent announcement that it will establish an inflation goal of 0%-2% saying “(the BoJ hopes) it can anchor longer-term price stability, and by anchoring the expectations for longer-term price stability we can manage the monetary policy in a more flexible manner.” BoJ Governor Fukui has made it clear the central bank has no plans to raise interest rates from around zero per cent. The Nikkei 225 stock index climbed 1.51% to close at ¥16,339.73. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥115.30 level. The euro moved sharply lower vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥141.15 level after failing to get above the ¥142.30 level. The British pound and Swiss franc tumbled vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥203.25 and ¥89.65 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan moved sharply higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0315 in the over-the-counter market, its lowest close since People’s Bank of China revalued the yuan on 21 July 2005. In the exchange-traded market, the pair close at CNY 8.0316. Protectionist-minded U.S. Senate officials visit China from 19 – 26 March and Chinese authorities are clearly making sure the yuan will appreciate before then. In other news, former PBOC official Li said the returns on China’s foreign exchange reserves is “impressive.”


The British pound gave back some recent gains vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.7520 level after failing to get above the $1.7575 level. Technically, the pair briefly traded below the 76.4% retracement of the move from $1.7620 to $1.7230. Sterling traders took their cues from other currencies today in the absence of major U.K. news. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7600 figure. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the £0.6945 level and was supported around the £0.6925 level.


The Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.2940 level and was supported around the CHF 1.2880 level. The pair is trying to finish the day on a positive note after being offered for most of the week. In Swiss news, UBS AG raised its 2006 forecast for real GDP to 2.3% from 2.0% and it sees 2006 inflation averaging 0.8% and just above 1.7% next year. U.S. dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.2845 level. The euro and British pound gained ground vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 1.5740 and CHF 2.2690 levels, respectively.


The Australian dollar lost major ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the Aussie tested bids around the US$ 0.7265 level and was capped around the US$ 0.7385 level. Major stops were reached below the $0.7345/ 0.7300 levels. Australian dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.7370 level.


The Canadian dollar moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the C$ 1.1615 level and was supported around the C$ 1.1515 level. January wholesale sales and inventories data will be released today. U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$1,1635 level.


The New Zealand dollar weakened substantially vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today the kiwi tested bids around the US$ 0.6300 figure after failing to get above the $0.6405 level. Chartists continue to eye the $0.6275 level as a major downside target for the pair. New Zealand dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.6455 level.

Gold/ Silver

Gold moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the yellow metal tested bids around the US$ 551.30 after testing offers around the $557.30. Technically, the pair is finishing the week on a positive note and is not far from the 50% retracement of its recent multi-decade high and subsequent multi-week low. Silver moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today and tested offers around the US$ 10.43 level and was supported around the $10.25 level, a fresh 22-year high. Traders expect U.S. regulatory authorities to approve a silver-backed, exchange-traded fund at any time.

Crude oil

Crude oil gained ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as light, sweet crude for May delivery futures tested offers around the US$ 65.21 level and was supported around the $64.75 level. United Nations Security Council officials discussed plans to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambition yesterday and permanent members of the Council will meet in New York next week to discuss the issue. OPEC’s monthly report indicated world crude oil demand is likely to increase 1.8% in 2006, or about 1.5 million barrels per day from 84.5 million.


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