20 JUNE 2013: FED STRENGTHENS USD WHILE STOCKS PLUNGE

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The US Federal Reserve (FED) will start to taper its monetary easing program in the second half of 2013 ,and terminate the bond buying completely in the first half of 2014. That was Chairman Ben Bernanke’s message after FED’s meeting yesterday. A termination depends, however, on continued growth, controlled inflation and achievement of FED’s 6.5 % unemployment target. The US economy is moderately growing, but FED see increased downturn risks due to budget cuts, which have weakened growth. The low interest rate policies will continue.

Markets reacted by sending stocks down. Dow Jones Industrial fell 1.35 %. Nasdaq lost 1.12 %. The Asian indexes plunged on the news. The bond buying program has been the main driver behind this year’s stock rally. A termination invites uncertainty. The Asian-Pacific MSCI-index fell more than 3 %. The Japanese Nikkei was equally hard hit as were Australia, New Zealand and other Asian markets. The downturn in equity markets is most probably going to continue in Europe today.

FED’s conclusion and Bernanke’s comments don’t come as a big surprise. Over the last few weeks there has been continuous speculation as to when tapering would start. FED seems to be convinced that the US economy is on the right track, but keeps the door open for continued stimulus policies in the worst case scenario. This “exit” from monetary easing shall hardly calm nervous markets which usually overreact to news regarded as negative.

FED’s decision has strengthened the Dollar in relation to all currencies. EUR/USD has fallen from the 1.34 level to 1.326. Yen has also lost ground and trades at 96.28 Yen to a Dollar.GBP/USD, which lately has traded at around 1.57, plunged to 1.5448. The USD/AUD continues to fall, 0.9250, on new data confirming a slower Chinese growth. Oil prices are down. Brent crude trades at USD 104.69 a barrel, down one-and-a-half Dollars. Gold and commodity prices continue to lose ground.

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18 JUNE 2013: ASIAN SHARES SLIDE BEFORE FED MEETING

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After a strong session in New York on Monday where Dow Jones, S&P, and Nasdaq all gained, Asian shares slide, as investors are nervously waiting news from the US Federal Reserve meeting and Bernanke’s news conference on Wednesday. The Japanese Nikkei and the Asian Pacific MSCI-indexes fell as did Australian shares which lost 0.9 %. The currencies are relatively steady with the EUR/USD at 1.3354 and USD/JPY at 94.84.

Oil prices continue to trade higher due to tension in the Middle East. Brent crude stands at USD 105.57 a barrel. The G-8 meeting amongst the world’s strongest developed economies, started their meeting in Northern Ireland yesterday, seeing Russia increasingly isolated in their support to the Assad-regime in Syria. US and European leaders simultaneously launched talks on the world’s most ambitious free trade agreements.

Markets are looking for the FED to clarify its outlook on its massive stimulus program when the US central bank concludes its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. FEDs aggressive bond-buying program, along with other central banks accommodating monetary policies to promote growth, have provided liquidity which have been invested into higher risk assets as shares. Even modest tapering in monetary policies might, therefore, have had direct and unforeseen impact on the stock rally seen the last half-year.

Uncertainty over FEDs thinking has recently weighed in on the Dollar which has plunged to a four-month low towards a basket of currencies. The Dollar’s fall against the Yen has primarily been linked to speculators and investors cutting down on their Yen short positions after the Bank of Japan last week did nothing to quell a highly volatile domestic bond market. The fall in the Yen was sparked by a sell-off in Nikkei shares which have fallen 20 % from their peak at the end of May.

It is expected that FED, after its Wednesday meeting, will stress its commitment to continued stimulus and that any tapering will not signal lightening liquidity. At the G-8 meeting the Euro zone came under pressure to press on with a banking union. Japan was urged to follow up on central bank stimulus with structural reforms to tackle its budget deficits.

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07 JUNE 2013: DOLLAR PLUNGES IN BROAD SELL-OFF

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The Dollar plunged against the Euro, Japanese Yen, and other currencies as investors reduced bets on the greenback on concerns that today’s US jobs report will disappoint. Euro/USD trades at 1.3262. American stocks fell in tandem with a weaker USD, but rebounded to end in positive territory. Dow Jones added 0.53 % to climb back above the 15.000 level. Nasdaq gained 0.66 % to 3 424. The changes seem to be technically driven by psychological factors.

A poll amongst economists expects 170 000 new jobs could’ve been added to the US economy in May with an unemployment rate of 7.5 %. Fear of a weaker than expected job report prompted, however, investors to unwind bets on a stronger Dollar that had been profitable for months. Gold prices, which have been under strong pressure for months, suddenly rose 1 percent to USD 1412 an ounce as investors sold long positions on the Dollar.

The Euro gained after the European Central Bank, ECB, left interest rates unchanged. ECB President, Mario Draghi, stated that further monetary support was unlikely in the near future. ECB has kept interest rates at a record low of 0,5 % waiting for a turnaround in the Euro zone. Bank of England have also chosen to leave their loose monetary policy unchanged. British Sterling, GBP, has jumped against the Dollar at 1,5612 and gained substantially during the last few days from low 1.51 levels.

Concerns that key US job data will disappoint sent the Japanese Nikkei into bear territory in Asia this morning. The Nikkei plunged 1.9 % to a two month low. Nikkei has lost 20 % from a five-and-half-year high, just two weeks ago. Other Asian stocks failed to capitalize on overnight gains in Wall Street. The Asian Pacific MSCI-index fell 0.6 % to its lowest level since November. The fall in equities seem to indicate a stronger appetite among investors for safe haven bonds. The yield on U.S, German and Japanese bonds have risen recently.

Oil prices are higher on the back of a weaker Dollar. Brent crude trades close to USD 104 a barrel, up from the USD 100 mark earlier in the week.

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05 JUNE 2013: US AND ASIAN STOCKS DECLINE ON FED UNCERTAINTY

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Asian stocks slipped to their lowest level in 2013 as uncertainty over when the US Federal Reserve (FED) would begin scaling down its massive stimulus program. Since 2008, FED has injected 2,5 trillion dollars into bonds to boost the economy. The increased liquidity has mainly benefited US-stocks which have reached new highs, but also led to an inflow of US-funds into Asian and other markets. There are now increased worries, especially in Asia, about funds flowing out of the region.

Over the past few days, this trend has been reflected in a stronger Japanese Yen (JPY). Foreign funds have, for the last few months, been injected into a rapidly increasing and profitable Japanese stock market. Foreign capital is now taking profit and selling Yen with the effect that the JPY has increased 4 % in the last few days in relation to USD. USD/JPY fell below 100 on Monday, recovered early during Wednesday’s session, but later dipped back to 99.2 Yen to a Dollar.

US stocks ended even lower on Tuesday, resuming their recent decline, as investors sold growth-oriented sectors on speculation the Federal Reserve may slow down the pace of its economic stimulus. The indexes have fallen 2 percent from their peak on May 22nd as investors take profit. Dow Jones was down 0.50 % at 15 177. A top US-official, critical to the bond buying program, stated yesterday that FED is poised to re-evaluate and possibly make changes to its massive monetary stimulus.

FED Chairman, Ben Bernanke, has been consistent in his comments on monetary easing and stressed that proof of a real turnaround in US economy reflected in an unemployment target of 6,5, which is necessary before making changes. After the disappointing manufacturing data earlier this week, the jobless claims presented on Friday might prove decisive for whether the stimulus program is going to be continued until the end of the year.

The Dollar recovered from an early-week selloff on Wednesday while the Australian Dollar plunged to a 19 month low on the back of disappointing growth data. Euro/USD is at 1.3086 back from a one-month high on 1.3108.There is strong technical resistance at 1.3141. Oil prices are up. NYMEX is at 93,63 and Brent crude trades above USD 103 a barrel.

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03 MAY 2013: ECB RATE CUTS SUPPORT SHARES

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EUR/USD lost more than 100 points after the European Central Bank (ECB) decided to cut interest rate with 0,25 % to a historical low of 0,50. The Euro fell immediately on the announcement and trades at 1.3074. The decision received cheers from stock markets which rallied in early Asian trade on Friday. In the US Wall street was helped by a sharp fall in last week’s jobless claims which fell to its lowest level in five years.

The smaller number of Americans seeking jobless benefits claims was seen as a sign of a healing job market in spite of the presentation a ray of weak economic data lately. US stocks were also helped by a narrowing trade gap in March. The fact that both imports and exports fell, indicate, however, weaker demand, and tells of weakening growth momentum both in the US and globally.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped with 18 000 last week to seasonally adjusted 324 000. The claims report runs counter to a number of signals of economic activity softening in March and April. The data has no direct bearing on the Labour Department’s monthly employment report which is expected later today. It suggests, however, that employers are feeling less pressure to lay off workers even if they have cut back on hiring.

Oil, copper and gold prices traded higher with Brent crude up 2 % to 102,65. The US stock rally was led by tech shares. Facebook delivered better than expected and rose 5 %. The ECB decision to cut rates for the first time in 10 months helped market sentiment and bolstered the content of the Federal Reserve (FED) statement Wednesday. FED will continue to buy bonds to keep interest low and spur growth. If necessary FED kept the door open for stepping up the purchases. Also the ECB kept options for further action to stimulate the economy.
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