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Thursday May 6, 2004 - 21:43:00 GMT -

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Daily Forex Report 05-06-04

Daily Forex Report 05-06-04

· Bank of England Raises Rates By 25bp to 4.25%
· ECB Leaves Rates Unchanged at 2.00%
· US Jobless Claims Fall to 315k from 340k


Unsurprisingly, the European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged at 2.00%, ignoring pleas by German and Austrian government officials to ease rates in an attempt to spur consumer spending and business investment. At the accompanying press conference, ECB President Trichet reiterated last month’s comments on the ECB’s lack of a bias and their intentions to keep all “options open.” Trichet also warned that higher oil prices might cause inflation to accelerate beyond the central bank’s 2% target over the next few months. His statement continues to stress the expectation for a gradual recovery and that “the recovery of real economic activity has continued into 2004.” Such wording leads us to believe that the ECB is very reluctant about delivering a summer easing. Despite the central bank’s decision to keep rates unchanged, the euro sold off on weaker economic data. German factory orders unexpectedly fell 0.7% during the month of March, led by a decline in external demand.


The US dollar is trading higher ahead of tomorrow’s non-farm payrolls report. Traders are holding their breath for what will probably set the tone for the dollar in the weeks ahead. Although market consensus is for payrolls to grow by 170,000 in the month of April, the whisper number is as high as 200,000. According to a Bloomberg survey, the highest estimate is 250,000. One of the explanations for the high estimate is that there are five weeks between the March and April payrolls. Rising consumer confidence is also suggesting that labor market conditions have been improving. Today’s jobless claims data is reflective of the general improvements with claims dropping to a three year low. As one of the last remaining puzzles of the economic recovery, tomorrow’s non-farm payrolls report is exceptionally important. According to the minutes from the March Fed meeting, FOMC officials debated changing their assessment of inflation as early as 2 months ago. However, with continual slack in the labor and output markets, a “further decline in inflation likely outweighed those associated with a comparable increase.” As a result, the Fed left the wording unchanged in March but did upgrade their inflation assessment on Tuesday.


As expected, the Bank of England raised interest rates by 25bp to 4.25%. The accompanying statement acknowledged the above trend output growth, robust consumer spending and strong house price inflation. Addressing low inflation, the BoE expects inflation to revert to an upward trend as a result of rising commodity prices, earnings growth and the low level of spare capacity. With oil prices nearing $40/barrel, which is a 13-year high, global inflationary pressures are rising. Although the comments were clearly bullish, it provided no clues to whether the BoE plans on raising rates once again. However, should inflation resume its uptrend and consumer spending / housing market fail to slow despite the latest rate change, the BoE may be forced to tighten monetary policy even further.


The dollar soared against the yen as Japan’s markets reopen following from their 3-day Golden Week holidays. The 1.62% decline in the Nikkei suggests that foreigners may be selling Japanese equities. Commenting on the government’s lack of intervention during the month of April, MoF Watanabe said that the government will not intervene if it is not needed. With an improvement in exports helping to boost the economy, government officials feel less of a need to support the export market by artificially weakening the yen. China is also playing a role in the USDJPY rally as the market continues to fear that a slowdown in China will have significantly negative ramifications for the Japanese economy. In a speech in Washington today, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said that China will not be able to sustain its currently excessive growth levels. He added that a slowdown in China will put downward pressure on commodity prices.


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