Sunday, February 22, 2009

8.1 Gloomy week cues up another wave of risk aversion

It was a mixed week on the currency markets. The greenback strengthened on all fronts when the week got underway as bad news out Asia and Europe increased demand for the US dollar. The final days of trading saw a turn-around as fears that Citigroup and Bank of America were heading for nationalization sparked wide-scale dumping of the US currency.

The euro started the week’s trading by gapping down 90 pips, opening at 1.2808. It tested resistance at around 1.28 through President’s Day, before heading south in the early hours of Tuesday to find the week’s low of 1.2512. The euro then recovered to hit the week’s high of 1.2877 late Friday, before closing at 1.2835.
The euro’s early decline must be seen from the perspective of the euro-zone’s very disappointing data of late (remember those appalling GDP numbers released Friday 13th?). This week’s developments have fed fears that the 16-nation currency is facing a battle for survival as the global recession bites. On Tuesday Moody’s flagged concerns that a collapse in the economies in Eastern Europe could have a negative impact on Western Europe’s banking giants. On Wednesday, the European Commission called on euro-zone members France, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Malta to get their houses in order by reducing their budget deficit to 3% or less as required by the EU’s Stability and Growth pact. However, the difficulties that these countries would face if they tried to cut back on spending were amply illustrated this weekend in Dublin. 100000 people marched through the Irish capital to protest against how their government is handling the economic crisis. Friday afternoon saw a reversal in EUR/USD fortunes after the head of the Senate Banking Committee told Bloomberg that he was worried that the Bank of America and Citigroup could be nationalized ‘at least for a short time’. The euro soared to above 1.2850 until White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a press conference that the administration believes that a well-regulated privately-held banking system was correct the way to go.

GBP/USD gapped down more than 150 pips when it opened the week at 1.4228. It spent most of the ranging between 1.41 and 1.43. It broke out of this range on Thursday and hit the week’s high (1.4482) on Friday afternoon, before closing the week at 1.4425.
Sterling received support on Tuesday on the news that consumer price inflation fell less than expected to 3.0%. Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, said he was still concerned about deflation and that the Bank may have to create more money (known as ‘quantitative easing’) and pump it into the economy to prevent inflation from falling below the banks inflation target of 2.0%. Wednesday’s release of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting minutes revealed that the committee had voted 8-1 to cut interest rates by 50bps last meeting. The committee’s one dissenter, arch-dove David Blanchflower, wanted to cut by a full 100bps. The committee voted unanimously to seek approval from the government to start quantitative easing soon.

A week of gloom for Japan opened with the news that the country’s GDP had slumped by 3.7% in Q4 2008. Japan’s economy minister, Kaoru Yosano said that Japan was facing its worse crisis since the Second World War. On Tuesday, the finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa resigned amidst allegations that he had been drunk at the G7 meeting the weekend before.
The greenback spent the week on the up against the yen, hitting the week’s high of 94.45 on Thursday before falling back to close the week at 93.01

Calendar notes
The economic calendar promises to be fairly lively this week.
News from the American housing front comes on Wednesday with Existing Home Sales and on Thursday with New Home Sales. We get a snapshot of economic performance in the US regions with Tuesday’s Richmond Manufacturing Index and Friday’s Chicago PMI: while Thursday’s Durable Goods Orders and Friday’s GDP give us an insight into the nation’s performance as a whole. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index is released on Tuesday and is followed up by the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index on Friday. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, is testifying to the Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday.
Highlights out of the euro-zone include German IFO numbers on Tuesday, the euro-zone’s Industrial New Orders also on Tuesday and its CPI on Friday.
On Tuesday, the Confederation of British Industry releases its monthly Realized Sales index, a survey of the sales of wholesalers and retailers. The UK’s revised GDP will be published on Wednesday, and the Nationwide Building Society’s House Price Index is due out on Thursday. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, will be testifying to Parliament on the banking crisis also on Thursday.

EUR/USD is still in a downtrend and could well fall back to 1.25 this week.
GBP/USD will continue to range between 1.41 and 1.46.
USD/JPY should find support at 91 and resistance at 94.5.

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