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Friday October 27, 2006 - 10:37:01 GMT
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A mixed bag

Key News
• Japan's consumer price gains unexpectedly slowed in September. Core consumer prices, which exclude fresh food, climbed 0.2 percent in September from a year earlier, down from 0.3 percent in August, government ministries said today in Tokyo. (Bloomberg)
• Key US Reports (WSJ):
8:30a.m. 3Q Advance GDP. Previous: +2.6%.
10:00a.m. End-Oct U Of Mich Consumer Sentiment Index. Previous: 92.3

“Albeit exaggerated now and then, this is not a risk to be underestimated [contagion]. The US is of course not the only engine of global growth, and other countries have already become almost as important as the American consumer, who is responsible for more than 15% of all spending in the world. Nevertheless, no country can escape a significant slowdown in the US economy; and the consequences of global rebalancing may pose disproportionate risks to the developing world.”

Serhan Cevik and Katerina Kalcheva, Morgan Stanley

FX Trading – A mixed bag

It continues to be a mixed bag out there. New Zealand said no to rate hikes; yet they seem on the table in Australia, though not a certainty:

“The principal reason for the RBA not tightening is that GDP growth has already slowed. Slower growth almost always leads to lower inflation — but with a lag. The recent softer GDP data point to inflation moderating in coming quarters.

“Having said that, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has questioned whether the recent slowdown in GDP can be reconciled with the recent strength in employment — or if both series are correct, then that implies a major step-down in productivity growth, which itself is a worry for inflation,” writes Gerard Minack of Morgan Stanley.
And of course there is Japan, which recorded lower than expected inflation this morning.

In the US, it seems investors focused on the housing data suggesting softness, but some look at the data and say the worst may be behind us, that’s what former Fed Chairman Greenspan said yesterday—but then again, it was the same Mr. Greenspan that once urged homeowners to load up on adjustable rate mortgages as short-term interest rates were starting to ratchet higher, so the source is likely a bit tainted. This tidbit is from Gavekal Research this morning:

US housing collapse? It now seems increasingly likely that the slowdown in US housing will be much more moderate and gradual than feared by most doom-mongers. Yesterday, US September new home sales came in at an annual rate of 1.075 million units (expected 1.04 million units), up +5.3% compared with August. The median price was down –9.7% YoY, but that was mostly a result of a larger portion of sales of homes priced below US$200,000 and fewer purchases of more expensive homes. Could we have seen the worst of the housing slowdown?”

Maybe! However, there are many pessimistic views on housing going forward among some smart people who have their own set of strong stats to stand on. We think housing is a major wildcard, though we remain cautiously optimistic.

It’s interesting, and as usual perplexing, that bonds rallied sharply again yesterday on a blowout strong US Durable Goods report…

Bond Chart

Maybe the bond move the last two days has nothing to do with the news (other than the Fed statement), and is just a reaction to realign expectations [of tightening] that got a bit ahead of themselves:

“While easing expectations probably got ahead of themselves last month, the mood swing from easing to tightening is something of a mystery. More than his predecessor, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke relies on the staff forecast. He is not going to raise interest rates when the forecast calls for below-trend growth and falling inflation,” writes Caroline Baum of Bloomberg.

All this sound and fury of late and yet the dollar index dwells in the center of its recent range:

Dollar Index Chart

This morning we get advanced GDP and Michigan Consumer confidence. The dollar has been whacked a bit since the Fed statement—more weakness from these two reports today would likely hit the dollar again regardless of the mixed bag of data we continue to wrestle with.


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