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Forex Market News - FX Briefing 13 July 2007 - Not only EUR-USD tops all-time high

FX Briefing 13 July 2007
Highlights

• ECB’s Jürgen Stark says euro strength reflects economic recovery in the euro area
• Jittery credit markets boost euro
• What does Bernanke think about the problems in the subprime sector?

Not only EUR-USD tops all-time high
This week, one record after another was broken. Several equity indices hit fresh records, and EUR-USD also climbed to an all-time high of 1.38. The euro also reached a new high of 168.95 against the yen, after the BoJ failed to give any concrete signals for a rate hike in August. Its strength had little impact on European equity markets: at the end of the week, after several attempts, the DAX finally succeeded in breaking its record high of 8136 set in 2000. Apparently market participants were of the same opinion as ECB chief economist Jürgen Stark, who sees robust economic growth in the eurozone as the reason for the euro’s strength.

And, although relatively few data were published this week, there was in fact a spate of good news from the eurozone. For instance, after its setback in April, production rebounded in May, and the gross domestic product for the first quarter was revised slightly upwards to 0.7%, which probably also supported the currency movement.

However, the euro’s ascent was more likely to have been triggered by the bad news from the US: last Tuesday, rating agencies warned unexpectedly that they could downgrade hundreds of bonds backed by US subprime mortgages. Although it was clear that this was going to happen sooner or later because of the problems in the subprime mortgage sector, the announcement still led to selling pressure on international credit markets. Most credit product spreads widened significantly and put pressure on the dollar. For a time there were fears that there could be a sellout of those bonds held in securitized and structured form by institutional investors world-wide. The 10-year US Treasury yield actually dropped temporarily below 5%.

But fears were soon dispelled when the US equity market, fired by large mergers and speculation of takeovers, proved extremely robust; furthermore, there were reassuring comments on the subprime mortgage crisis from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Fed representatives. Subsequently, credit spreads have narrowed again slightly, but are still at a significantly elevated level.

Next week the spotlight will probably be on Ben Bernanke’s testimonies before the two houses of Congress. The focus will be on his monetary policy comments, which are however unlikely to cause much of a stir. In our opinion the Fed’s growth and inflation forecasts need to be reviewed; they are likely to be revised down. Market participants will also be watching out for his assessment of the problems in the subprime sector. The Fed has been under some political pressure here for a while, as it has not acted in any way, although unbridled lending to subprime debtors has put a large number of US households into financial difficulties. FOMC member Randall Kroszner announced yesterday that the Fed is now thinking about tightening regulation to better protect subprime debtors.

In addition to the testimony, a number of US economic indicators are due next week, among them the first regional purchasing managers’ indices for July. We expect figures to come down significantly from the high increases we have seen in the second quarter, thus signalling slower growth in the third quarter. Moreover, there are some important housing market indicators on the agenda. If they trend down as we expect, this could put further pressure on the dollar.

Uwe Angenendt +49 69 718-3648

Economics Department
+49 69 718-3642
volkswirtschaft@bhf-bank.com
Foreign Exchange Trading
devisenhandel@bhf-bank.com
Jörg Isselmann
+49 69 718-2695
Matthias Grabbe / Klaus Näfken
+49 69 718-2688

This report has been prepared by BHF-BANK Aktiengesellschaft on behalf of itself and its affiliated companies (together "BHFBANK Group") solely for the information of its clients.
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