Sunday, February 8, 2009

6.1 Risk appetite increases as traders anticipate Obama’s stimulus package.

Last week saw investor confidence rise as shocking US jobs data fed hopes that Barack Obama’s financial stimulus would soon be passed. The dollar weakened against most currencies except the yen as traders left safe havens in search of riskier assets.

The euro closed the week up against the dollar for the first time in six weeks. Good news out of the US, including better than expected manufacturing PMI and Pending Home Sales, improved risk appetite and gave the euro a boost on Monday and Tuesday. However, the 16-nation currency stumbled on Wednesday as the Fitch international rating agency downgraded Russia’s credit rating to BBB. Russia is a significant partner of the euro zone and the deteriorating situation in the world’s largest country can only spell trouble for Europe’s economic health. The euro continued to fall through the afternoon, as discouraging US job data gave the market the jitters as it looked forward to Friday’s Non-Farm payrolls. The ECB met market expectations by holding interest rates at 2.00% on Thursday. Jean-Claude Trichet followed up the announcement by signaling that the bank will be cutting rates by 50 bps in March and, at the same time, more bad news from the US jobs front sent the euro to test 1.28 once more. Friday saw the much anticipated NFP and Unemployment rate both come in worse than expected. However, in a departure from the recent pattern, the markets surged, taking the euro up with them, as traders gambled that the massive jobless figure would spur Congress into passing President Obama’s stimulus package. EUR/USD rose to just shy of 1.30 before closing the week at 1.2924.

Sterling started the week off on the wrong foot and fell some 4 cents against the greenback on Monday as rating agency, Moody’s, cut the credit rating of Barclays bank. However, after testing support at 1.41 mid-Monday, cable spent the week on the up. There were some positive signs from UK data this week with PMIs across the sectors coming in better than expected and the Halifax house price survey finding that house prices rose an average of 1.9% in January. However, the news was not all positive. Downbeat releases included Wednesday’s consumer confidence, which found sentiment at record lows and Friday’s UK manufacturing production, which contracted for the tenth month in a row. On Thursday the Bank of England cut rates to an all-time low of 1.00%. The cut was widely anticipated and sterling climbed 100 pips against the dollar after the announcement. The pair closed the week a little above 1.48 at 1.4806.

The yen weakened significantly against the other majors as demand for the safe-haven currency fell and traders speculated that the passing of the US stimulus package was a done deal. Thursday saw US trading take the pair through key psychological resistance at 90.00 to close the week at 91.99

The big news this coming week will undoubtedly be the progress of Barack Obama’s financial rescue package. New US Treasury secretary Tim Geithner is scheduled to unveil full details of the revamped bail-out on Monday. However, the timing of the announcement has yet to be confirmed and The Wall Street Journal reported that it may be moved to Tuesday. The US Senate is expected to vote to slim down its version of the package on Monday and on Tuesday it will most probably pass it. Unfortunately, that won’t be the end of the story because lawmakers will have to reconcile the differences between the Senate’s and the House of Representative’s versions of the package. This could take a few days after which the Senate can vote to pass the final version and send it on to the President to sign or veto. Investor confidence could well spike at each successful stage of this process.

Other US news stories to note this week will be Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testifying before the House Financial Services Committee and the Tim Geithner testifying on the TARP oversight before the Senate Banking Committee. US economic data releases of note this week include the trade balance on Wednesday; retail sales on Thursday and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment on Friday.

Things are pretty quiet data-wise in the euro-zone until Thursday brings the ECB’s monthly bulletin and industrial production numbers. Friday has GDP data for Germany, France, Italy and the euro-zone as a whole.

Tuesday is a busy day for UK data, with retail sales numbers, the house price balance and Britain’s trade balance. Wednesday includes the release of the latest jobless numbers and the Bank of England inflation report.

Friday sees the start of the G7 meeting in Rome where they are due to discuss a number of currency related issues as well as the provision of a global banking agency.

I see EUR/USD finding support at 1.2746 and resistance at 1.3330.
GBP/USD should find support at 1.43 and resistance at 1.53
I expect USD/JPY to encounter support at 90.70 and if this support holds, the pair should rise to test resistance at 94.60

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