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FOMC Not the Only Thing on the Calendar Affecting Dollar

DailyFX Research 03-24-06

By Kathy Lien www.dailyfx.com

• FOMC Not the Only Thing on the Calendar Affecting Dollar
• Dollar Tanks as US New Home Sales Drop 10 Percent
• GDP Numbers Due Out from Around the Globe

US Dollar

After four days of persistent strength, the dollar finally gave back some of its impressive gains. Durable goods orders were suppose to be the day’s most market moving piece of data, but instead it was new home sales that sent the dollar tumbling. Perhaps it was the fact that the durable goods report was a bit confusing with the headline number reporting that orders rose 2.6 percent last month but orders excluding transportation actually fell 1.3 percent. Overall, the number was mixed and didn’t give dollar traders clear enough information to cause a major move in the market. However, new home sales did. After yesterday’s strong resales figures, the market was banking on a stronger than forecasted new home sales report. It is only natural to assume that if resales hit a two year high last month that new homes would also benefit somewhat. However, according to the Commerce department, sales of new single family homes fell a whopping 10.5 percent to the lowest level since February 2003. This is extremely concerning since new developments have played a major role in fueling speculative activity in the housing market. Should new home sales continue to falter, not only would this mean that the housing market is finally suffering, but it also suggests that we will begin to see a ripple effect on businesses tied to housing. In particular these include construction companies, companies involved in home improvement, real estate agents and mortgage brokers. The list of industries that are directly or indirectly affected are endless. For months now, inventory has been rising in the “hot states” that have experienced some of the biggest increases in home values over the past few years. According to a report released yesterday by the Florida Association of Realtors, sales of existing family homes fell 20 percent. California, another hot market saw a 15 percent slide in sales. Despite the strong resales number released yesterday, we wondered how much longer the strength could continue given back to back rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, which increases the cost of borrowing higher. It now seems that we didn’t have to wait that long given today’s new home sales report. We have an extremely busy week ahead of us. Not only is the Federal Reserve expected to deliver another much anticipated rate hike, but consumer confidence, GDP, personal income, personal spending, factory orders and Chicago PMI are also due for release. Meanwhile the price action in the New Zealand dollar today is worth noting. The currency fell 2.4 percent against the dollar and has actually been selling off for 2.5 months now as Finance Minister Cullen gives his blessing for further weakness. The initial sell-off in the NZD a few months ago was also triggered by similar rhetoric from government officials.

Euro

If it wasn’t for US data, the Euro would have probably ended the day unchanged against the dollar. There was little action in the single currency despite slightly softer consumer prices out of Germany this morning. The preliminary CPI numbers for this month indicated that annualized CPI growth has dipped from 2.1 percent to 1.9 percent. Although this is only a preliminary figure, it is below the ECB’s target which suggests that central bank may not feel as compelled to press forward with rate hikes. This does not mean that they would refrain from raising rates at their next meeting, but instead they may not proceed as aggressively. In the week ahead, the abundance of US data may mean that the market pays less attention to Eurozone economic data. However, we are expecting a few key releases including German IFO, unemployment, retail sales and French consumer confidence, GDP and unemployment that is still worth watching.

British Pound

With no economic data on the UK calendar, the British Pound was pushed higher by dollar weakness. It is quite clear that the dollar was the primary driver of Euro and Pound movements because EUR/GBP ended the day unchanged. Yet as we mentioned yesterday, this is the calm before we get a ripple of data in the week ahead. Growth seems to be the focus around the world as the UK joins France and the US in releasing its GDP figures for the fourth quarter. Additionally, the UK will also be releasing their current account, CBI distributive trades report, house price figures and consumer confidence. Judging from the forecasts, analysts are expecting stronger reports from our friends across the Atlantic.

Japanese Yen

The Japanese Yen experienced quite a bit of volatility today. Before the release of the US durable goods number, the dollar quietly continued its climb against the Yen, driving the pair to a high of 118.50. However once the US numbers were released, the dollar began to tumble, erasing all of the day’s initial gains and taking the pair down to low of 117.40. Data released overnight was positive for the Yen, with the tertiary activity index rising 2.2 percent versus the market’s consensus forecast for 1.4 percent growth. However, the Yen still weakened going into the US session as traders became nervous about whether the US would brand China as a currency manipulator. In the week ahead, Japan too has a great deal of data due for release including retail sales, industrial production and consumer prices.

 

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