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Wednesday July 21, 2004 - 17:10:04 GMT
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Forex Market News and Commentary (21 July 2004)

The euro came off vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the single currency tested bids around the US$ 1.2265 level after encountering resistance around the $1.2350 level during European dealing. Traders have been selling euros on account of Fed Chairman Greenspan’s congressional testimony yesterday in which he said the U.S. economic expansion has “become more broad-based” and added there have been “notable gains in employment.” Most importantly, Greenspan didn’t completely rule out a more aggressive monetary policy, keeping alive the possibility of a 50bps interest rate hike if inflation pressures prove to be more than transitory. Greenspan also intimated that H2 2004 economic growth will be relatively strong, contrary to some current economic forecasts that are predicting a deceleration in H2 economic activity. In his second day of testimony today, Greenspan repeated yesterday’s speech and answered questions on a litany of questions. The markets reacted by buying the U.S. dollar further and interpreted his remarks as relatively hawkish. Philadelphia Fed President Santomero spoke before Greenspan today and suggested inflationary pressures are expected to be benign. Fed Vice Chairman Ferguson and Dallas Fed President McTeer are also scheduled to speak today. Data released in the eurozone today saw Italy’s trade balance register a surplus of € 294 million in May compared with a deficit of € 323 million in May 2003 while Italian consumer confidence expanded in July for the second consecutive month. The Netherlands, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency now, said the EU’s economic recovery remains “slow and laborious.” Former German Wise Man Peffekoven characterized domestic demand and private consumption as “extremely weak” and said a major risk would be a decline in exports. In geopolitical news, traders are talking about a report that some nuclear weapons have been unearthed in Iraq and are awaiting confirmation of this rumour. Euro bids are cited around the $1.2210/05 level.


The yen lost ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the ¥109.30 level after finding good bids around the ¥108.35 level. Interestingly, the pair gained relatively little ground overnight despite a surprise upward revision to the Japanese government’s FY 2004 GDP forecast. The government now anticipates economic growth of a real 3.5%, nearly double the 1.8% that was originally forecast. If this level of growth materializes, this would be the strongest growth rate since the 3.6% level that was achieved in FY 1996. Importantly, the government also halved its CPI forecast for FY 2004/2005 saying consumer prices are expected to decline 0.1% as opposed to the previous forecast of a 0.2% decline. Major stops were hit above the ¥108.60 level during the move higher today. The Nikkei 225 stock index finished up 1.56% today to close at ¥11,433.86. The euro gained a modest amount of ground vis-à-vis the yen today as the single currency tested offers around the ¥134.35 level after finding bids around the ¥133.50 level. Technically, euro offers are seen around the ¥134.40 level ahead of additional selling pressure around the ¥134.65 level. In Chinese news, a government economist there reported the economy is expected to grow around 8.5% in 2004.

The British pound slumped sharply vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as cable tested bids around the US$ 1.8375 level after peaking around the $1.8550 level during European dealing. The release of the July Bank of England MPC minutes caused cable to sputter lower because they reflected a unanimous decision to not tighten monetary policy this month. The minutes suggested the arguments for keeping interest rates unchanged had proven “more persuasive.” Still, most MPC-watchers will tighten policy again at the August meeting, especially given today’s June retail sales data and the GDP data scheduled for release on Friday. Other traders believe additional monetary tightening is in store for October or November and suggest the repo rate could move as high as 5.5%. Next month’s MPC meeting presents a good opportunity for higher rates because it coincides with the release of the next quarterly inflation report. The euro gained marginal ground vis-à-vis the British pound today as the single currency tested bids around the £0.6645 level before moving to the £0.6680 level. Euro bids are seen around the £0.6635/15 levels.


The Swiss franc lost additional ground vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar today as the greenback tested offers around the CHF 1.2500 figure and was supported around the CHF 1.2410 level during European dealing. Greenspan’s relatively upbeat and hawkish testimony yesterday contributed to the pair’s gains. Swiss National Bank added one-week liquidity at 0.28% today, one tick lower than yesterday’s offering. The euro weakened vis-à-vis the Swiss franc as the single currency tested bids around the CHF 1.5320 level after testing offers around the CHF 1.5355 level.


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