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Tuesday April 18, 2006 - 11:11:33 GMT
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Forex: Mellon FX Daily - U.S. Edition

Key Points
• USD consolidated in European trading, after pushing sharply lower on Monday…
• US housing starts, PPI and the minutes of the March FOMC meeting are key today.
• RICS reported UK house prices rose a net +13% in March, disappointing expectations.

Market Outlook

The EUR-USD drifted back to $1.2225 in early London trading, but held shy of the $1.22-1.2170 support area and remains on the defensive, with a retest of Monday’s $1.2285 high possible on the day. The key barrier remains at the $1.2330 April 6 high, as a break there would leave little to prevent a drive to the 1.2600 area. Newswires are suggesting that the USD sell-off is due to interest rate hike expectations being trimmed back. Tis seems doubtful given some fairly hawkish comments from Moskow (although he is not a voting member of the FOMC under this year’s rotation). With oil prices breaching $70/bbl, a letter from Fed Chairman Bernanke dated April 5 to a US Senator also hit the wires. In the letter, Chairman Bernanke stated that the run-up in energy prices should not have a lasting impact on US inflation as long as the Fed acts “appropriately”. The letter notes that "by rough estimate," the rise in energy costs has cut somewhere between 0.5-1.0% from economic growth and will dent productivity. Doves will take this as suggestive that the Fed is not seeing higher energy prices as leading to higher inflation but hawks will see this as a warning that the Fed can move “appropriately” to keep inflationary pressures in check…

Given continued sabre-rattling from the Iranian president this morning, risk aversion remains high and that is helping to support commodity prices, with WTI crude oil futures trading well above $70/bbl this morning. Spot gold pushed to $628.15 in early trading, another 25-year high, while spot silver hit $13.79, a new 23-year high. EUR-CHF is sharply lower, which suggests that the CHF is also benefiting from some safe-haven flows, with scope for a pullback to 1.56, from near 1.5650 currently.

GBP-USD continues to flirt with the 250-day moving average at 1.7745. It will be interesting to see if that caps upticks today. The 1.7625 zone should revert to support; losses through there would be needed to take the shine off the GBP short term. However, the breakout highlights risk of a drive to 1.7860 and even a retest of the 1.7935 early January high. Note that EURGBP remains pretty flat near 0.6925, reinforcing that this is very much a USD move not GBP strength. Overnight, the RICS reported a slowdown in house prices for the first time since early 2005. A net 13% of sellers had noted a rise in house prices last month, down from a net 16% in February, below the +20% consensus forecast. RICS said new sellers had entered the market at their fastest pace since last June, driving up activity and causing a slight rise in the proportion of stocks of homes on surveyors’ books. Confidence rose, with RICS reporting that surveyors’ expectations for price rises had reached a 2-year high.

The continued surge in commodity prices helped the NZD-USD to extend last week’s pullback, with the 0.6300 zone in the spotlight now. A turn above there would point to a steeper retracement back towards the 0.6450-0.65 area. The 0.62- 0.6185 region should underpin NZD pullbacks now. The AUDUSD also caught a bid and gains through the 0.74-0.7410 area on a sustained basis would bring 0.75 back into focus on the topside. The AUD-NZD cross is consolidating near 1.18, after testing 1.1675 last week. Risk remains that the pullback from 1.20 extends to 1.16-1565.

Day Ahead
US – the minutes from the March 28th FOMC meeting are released today. The market will be focused on whether there was any discussion about an end to the tightening cycle. Recent comments from most of the Fed officials have placed an emphasis on the importance of the upcoming economic data and there has been nothing to undermine the belief that there will be another hike in rates to 5% in May. However, whether there is a step beyond this to 5.25% remains unclear. The minutes are unlikely to correct this uncertainly, keeping the attention on the upcoming economic data. The tightening in overall conditions may be seen as sufficient for the time being if core CPI remains subdued and the evidence on the housing market continues to point to weaker activity (albeit from very high levels). March PPI is also due on Tuesday, as well as the housing starts data. Housing starts pulled back sharply in February, after a strong weather-influenced rise in January. The market is betting on a further pullback in March, given the softer weekly mortgage application numbers and the weakest NAHB index reading since November 2001.

Data/event EDT Consensus*

US Chain store sls (w/e Apr 15) w/w 07.45 +1.8% last
US Housing starts (Mar) 08.30 2045k
US PPI (Mar) m/m 08.30 +0.4%
US PPI core (Mar) m/m 08.30 +0.2%
US Redbook sls (w/e Apr 15) m/m 08.55 +3.1% last
EU BoS’s Caruana speaks 09.00
US Fed’s Yellon speaks 11.45
US Minutes of Mar 28 FOMC meeting 17.00
US ABC consumer conf (w/e Apr 16) 07.45 -9 last

Latest data Actual Consensus*
GB RICS house prices (Mar) +13% +20%
* Consensus unless stated

2005, Mellon Financial Corporation Note: Although obtained from sources believed by us to be reliable, Mellon Financial Corporation and its affiliates cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information upon which this report is based. This report does not purport to disclose the risks or benefits of entering into particular transactions and should not be construed as advice in any specific instance. The views in this report constitute our judgement as of this date and are subject to change without notice.
Ian Gunner 44 20 7163 5996 06.40 EDT Monday May 31 2005


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