22 February 2013: Weak data support continued easing

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Global markets are still bewildered and confused as to further direction after the steep plunge Wednesday. Asia is marginally up in morning trade. Yesterday’s increase in jobless claims, weak factory activity and consumer data were a stark reminder on the real health of the US economy. It seems, however, overly optimistic to give up bond buying and monetary easing. Federal Reserve’s (FED) published January meeting records, turned markets upside down and raised questions whether these policies will be terminated earlier than planned.

The new data presented convincing arguments in favor of continued monetary easing. FED is currently buying USD 85 billion in bonds monthly. It has earlier stated that these purchases are going to continue until the labor market improves substantially. 6,5% unemployment has been set as a target. FED records demonstrates that its members are increasingly divided over the wisdom of these policies. The “Doves” want to go on with monetary easing. The traditionalist don’t. This division rattles global markets.

Jobless claims increased last week with 20 000 as consumer prices rose 1,6% and business activity index plunged. These numbers make it necessary for FED to think twice before giving up on the growth stimulus policies. Commodities and precious metals which along with stocks were big losers on Wednesday, have recovered as a result of technical corrections after the steep fall earlier in the week. Gold was especially strong hit and lost its shine as safe haven. Gold is trading 0,5% up at 1582. Oil prices have stabilized with technical graphs still pointing down.

USD continues to gain ground, but slower than yesterday. Euro/USD trades at 1.3216. USD/JPY is flat on 93,3075. The Scandinavian krones have lost substantially against the USD during the week. USD/NOK trades at 5,66 compared with a low on 5,43 earlier in February. The Danish krone (DK) is for the first time in weeks trading higher than the Norwegian krone (NOK).

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