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Thursday March 23, 2006 - 13:51:02 GMT
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Forex and Commodity Market Commentary and Analysis (23 March 2006)

The euro extended recent losses vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.2045 level and was capped around the $1.2080 level. The common currency is at one-week lows and most dealers attribute this to Fed Chairman Bernanke’s fairly upbeat remarks earlier this week about the prospects of the U.S. economy. The Federal Open Market Committee convenes on Tuesday and most market participants expect policymakers to lift the federal funds target rate by +25bps to 4.75%. The big questions involve what the Fed will do at the FOMC meeting on 10 May and the end of June. A move in June would likely entail a federal funds rate of 5.00%, at or near the so-called “neutral” level of short-term interest rates espoused by some economists. Another +25bps move beyond that would lift rates to the 5.25% level. Some FX players are expressing dissatisfaction with the rangebound lack of any clear direction in the market and this is largely attributable to the data-dependent mode of Fed policymaking at the current time. This contrasts with the Fed’s stance over the past couple of years when policymakers clearly had to lift interest rates from relatively low levels. Also, weekly initial jobless claims printed at 302,000, down from last week’s tally of 313,000. Tomorrow’s U.S. data include February durable goods orders and February existing home sales. In eurozone news, traders continue to speculate the European Central Bank will continue to tighten policy throughout 2006 and this speculation could be limiting the euro’s downside. Euro offers are cited around the US$ 1.2105 level.

¥/ CNY

The yen was little-changed vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥117.25 level and was supported around the ¥116.75 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 50% retracement of the move from ¥119.00 to ¥115.45. Bank of Japan Policy Board member Shin Nakahara dovishly said monetary conditions must remain “very easy” to compensate for the risk of deflation returning to Japan. The central bank ended its long-standing quantitative easing policy on 9 March and many traders believe official interest rates will be as high as 0.25% or 0.50% by the end of 2006. Japan’s current fiscal year-end finishes on 31 March. Data released in Japan overnight saw the February trade balance register a surplus of ¥955.7 billion one month after registering its first deficit in five years but last month’s total was off 11.8% y/y. Another report saw Tokyo land prices appreciate for the first time in fifteen years in 2005, another indication the economy is recovering from its long bout with deflation. The January tertiary index and all-industry activity index will be released tonight. The Nikkei 225 stock index was off 0.04% to close at ¥16,489.37. Dollar bids are cited around the ¥116.30 level. The euro weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the single currency tested bids around the ¥140.75 level after running out of steam around the ¥141.40 level. The pair continues to orbit the ¥141.10 level, representing the 61.8% retracement of the move from ¥143.60 to ¥137.10. The British pound and Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the yen as the crosses tested bids around the ¥203.50 and ¥89.25 levels, respectively. The Chinese yuan appreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar as the greenback closed at CNY 8.0276 in over-the-counter trading, down from CNY 8.0287. U.S. Senators Graham and Schumer spoke positively about the yuan’s recent appreciation but added they are uncertain if their protectionist-minded bill that would impose a 27.5% tariff on imported Chinese goods will be canceled. People’s Bank of China issued a report overnight reiterating the economy is expanding at a favourable pace and adding it will continue to conduct a “prudent” monetary policy.


The British pound came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.7405 level and was capped around the $1.7470 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 61.8% retracement of the move from $1.7620 to $1.7230 level. Data released in the U.K. today saw CBI manufacturing output expectations at their highest level since February 2005 with an index balance of +13% of manufacturers expecting an improvement over the next three months. Similarly, manufacturing order books are at their highest level since March 2005, albeit still relatively depressed. In Bank of England news, Monetary Policy Committee Lambert is leaving the MPC with immediate effective to assume a new position that would conflict with his policymaking. Lambert was scheduled to leave the MPC at the end of May. Cable offers are cited around the US$ 1.7530 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the British pound as the single currency tested offers around the £0.6925 level and was supported around the £0.6905 level.


The Swiss franc weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.3085 level and was supported around the CHF 1.3040 level. Technically, today’s intraday low was right around the 23.6% retracement of the move from CHF 1.2240 to CHF 1.3285. Swiss February trade balance data will be released today. Dollar bids are cited around the CHF 1.3005 level. The euro moved higher vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested offers around the CHF 1.5775 level while the British pound moved lower vis-à-vis the Swiss franc and tested offers around the CHF 2.2735 level.

The Australian dollar came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the Aussie tested bids around the US$ 0.7165 level and was capped around the $ 0.7210 level. Technically, today’s intraday high was right around the 23.6% retracement of the move from $0.7410 to $0.7145. Notably, the benchmark Australian S&P/ASX 200 Index established a record closing high today. Australian dollar offers are cited around the US$ 0.7250 level.

The Canadian dollar moved higher vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested bids around the C$1.1645 level after encountering offers around the C$1.1680 level. The pair peaked around the $1.1720 level yesterday, right around the 61.8% retracement of the move from $1.1975 to $1.1300. U.S. dollar offers are cited around the C$ 1.1815 level.


The New Zealand dollar appreciated modestly vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the kiwi tested offers around the US$ 0.6295 level and was supported around the $0.6235 level. The pair traded as low as the $0.6175 level yesterday. Data released in New Zealand today saw the 2005 current account deficit print at a record -NZ$ 13.7 billion, a 40% increase and equivalent to about 8.9% of GDP. New Zealand dollar offers are cited around the U$ 0.6340 level.

Gold/ Silver

Gold depreciated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the yellow metal tested bids around the US$ 546.70 level after encountering selling pressure around the $553.30 level. Technicians continue to cite congestion between $555 and $560. Gold’s rangebound trading may be attributable to the general lack of direction in the FX markets and may be energized next week after the Federal Reserve’s interest rate announcement. Silver weakened vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today, testing bids around the $10.44 level after running out of steam around the $10.51 level. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday approved rule changes on the American Stock Exchange that will allow Barclays to list its iShares Silver Trust there, the largest obstacle to a formal launch of this new exchange-traded fund.

Crude oil

Crude oil moved lower vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as light, sweet crude for May delivery on the NYMEX tested bids around the US$ 61.87 level and was capped around the $62.65 level. The pair was bid yesterday after U.S. oil supplies data confirmed crude stocks fell 1.3 million barrels in the last week, the first decline in six weeks and lower than the expected 2.5 million barrel increase. Inventories, however, remain near seven-year highs. OPEC has vowed to keep production at relatively strong levels.


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