17 JUNE 2013: DOLLAR LOSES MOMENTUM

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The Japanese Yen held near a two-month high against the Dollar and the Euro in early Asian trade Monday, amid market hysteria and confusion over when and how the US Federal Reserve (FED) will begin to scale down its massive stimulus program. USD/JPY opened at the same level as it ended in New York on Friday, where the Dollar bought 94.23 Yen. Since the opening, Yen has weakened to 94.77. EUR/USD trades steady at 1.3322 as French President Holland’s Socialist party asks for a weaker Euro.

The Dollar lost momentum during volatile sessions last week, which saw sharp moves in the Yen and emerging market currencies. Stronger retail sales and lower weekly jobless claims released last Thursday, helped the green back rise from months of lows. Negative consumer confidence figures published on Friday effected, however, USD negatively. The Dollar index, weighed against a basket of currencies, are at a four month low. Both Euro and GBP are at their strongest level against the Dollar since February.

Oil prices rallied to a two month high after Washington’s announcement that it would provide arms to Syrian rebel groups. New York Crude, NYMEX, trades at USD 97.63 a barrel and Brent is above 105. The Syrian crisis going to be at the top of the agenda when the G-8 meets today. The Syrian civil war is threatening the stability in neighboring Countries such as Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, and challenges Israel’s security as well. The conflict threatens to develop into a regional Russia/US proxy war also directly involving Iran.

In a price analysis Barclay’s bank is forecasting crude oil prices to retrace to USD 111 a barrel, taking supply shortfalls as well as geopolitical tensions into consideration. The Bank estimates supply shortfalls from OPEC (Organization of Oil Producing Countries) to be 2 million barrels a day or equal to Germany’s oil imports. Libyan oil output has fallen below 1m barrels a day due to protests at oil fields and terminals. Nigeria’s output has fallen due to theft-related damage to pipelines.

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12 JUNE 2013: USD/JPY REBOUNDS AFTER STEEP FALL

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The Dollar steadied against the Yen on Wednesday, suffering its biggest drop in three years yesterday. USD/JPY trades at 96.44, sinking as low as 95.60 in the previous session. The 2.7 % fall marked the biggest one-day drop in the USD/JPY currency since May 2010. The Dollar continued to slip against the Euro at 1.3307. The Dollar index DXY steadied after slumping to a four-month low of 81.034. The weakened Australian Dollar gained 0.4% and trades 0.9469 to a USD.

Bank of Japan (BOJ) disappointed investors hoping for an extension in the maximum duration of its fixed-rate loans, similar to the European Central Bank (ECB) long term financing operation. Such extension would have been aimed at quelling the volatility in the bond market. The market expected such a move. When that did not happen, the Yen sellers had to liquidate short positions. Yen buying was strengthened by exporters shrinking purchases of the Dollar.

The volatility and tumult in the Japanese bond market have raised worries that it could undercut the Abe government and BOJ’s efforts of monetary easing. USD/JPY had, until the recent turnaround, fallen continuously from 80 to 103.65 Yen to a Dollar. The weaker Yen gave Japanese export a welcomed boost, but most of this advantage has been eaten by the stronger Yen experienced in June.

The US and European stock markets tumbled yesterday on nervousness over FED’s monetary easing exit strategy. Dow Jones and Nasdaq fell from 0.76 to 1.06 %. At the General Assembly of Facebook, CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, faced a barrage of questions about the stock price. Facebook’s shares have fallen 37% since its introduction. In Japan, the Nikkei index fell below 13.000 as the strong Yen dragged exporters down.

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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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29 MAY 2013: USD RALLIES ON STRONG DATA

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US Dollar rallied against the Euro and Japanese Yen on strong consumer confidence, home prices accelerating to the highest levels seen in seven years. EURO/USD fell to 1.2874 while USD/JPY plunged to 102.58. Dow Jones jumped 92 points to 15.395 while the technology index Nasdaq added 0.62 %. The yield on US 10 years treasuries, simultaneously, reached a one year high.

After three losing sessions, global equity markets performed strongly. The Japanese Nikkei were up 1.3 % on Tuesday after a two day dramatic 10 percent plunge. All the European stock exchanges rose, UK being the strongest, with a 1.83 % increase. English and US markets were closed on Monday due to Memorial Day.

The equity rally came as central bankers in Germany and Japan confirmed their willingness to continue monetary easing. A German member of the European Central Bank (ECB) stated that the loose monetary policies would last for as long as it takes to get the Western European economy back on track. A representative from Bank of Japan issued a similar statement.

These strong statements will probably encourage more risk taking in higher yield assets financed through so called carry trading; cheap loans in Japanese Yen. While increased consumer confidence and higher home prices strengthen the USD, looser ECB monetary policies will lead to a weaker EURO/USD. A fall below the long traded interval,1.28 – 1.32, seems likely.

Japanese Yen is probably going to fall further as the short lived Yen rally indicates. The weakness in the Yen is there to be continued. Currency analysts are predicting within three months 106 Yen to the Dollar, and expect a further plunge to 109 within six months. Bottom levels are as low as 120 – 125 Yen a Dollar and seem likely in 2014.

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22 MAY 2013: BERNANKE HOLDS THE KEY TO THE STRENGTH OF THE USD

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Global markets traded steadily yesterday building up to the publishing of the Federal Reserve’s minutes from the last BOD meeting in April/May, and Ben Bernanke’s statement to Congress later today. After a small correction on Tuesday, the USD continues to strengthen and is up close to record high against a basket of currencies, DXY.

As proven over the last few weeks, the overall trend in the USD is pointing up towards all currency pairs in spite of a day or two of declines. This trend is supported by three main factors; the forecast for the US is better than for any other economy, Europe is ridden with recession and Japan is concentrating its efforts on increasing the inflation to the 2 % target.

The upswing in the US economy is mainly due to its monetary easing and FED’s loose monetary policies. FED representatives have, over the last few days, indicated that the bond buying program will soon come to an end. If Bernanke “sneezes” today and states the same as his local FED representatives have done, it would mean a further strengthening of the USD.

A weaker Euro and Yen over the last few hours seem to indicate that this is what markets expect. After the Japanese Economy minister talked the Yen up earlier in the week, he seems to have been reprimanded by superiors, and the Yen continues its free fall. The International Monetary Fund, IMF, in a report today, urged Swiss authorities to weaken the Franc by unwinding its currency reserve funds. The Franc has already depreciated 3,7 % towards the Euro in 2013.

Precious metals continue to fluctuate, wildly searching for direction. The large increases in gold and silver throughout Asia and early European trade was quickly eaten by new steep falls. Oil prices keep steady. Smaller than expected English inflation strengthened GBP and gave the markets hopes for loser monetary policies, meaning more money printed by the Bank of England.
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04 April 2013: ECB under fire for Cyprus handling

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Asian stocks fell as worse-than-estimated US economic data spurred concern about the pace of the US recovery as investors speculated whether the Bank of Japan (BOJ) would be able to meet forecast for monetary expansion and an inflation target of 2%. The MSCI Asia Pacific index slid 1% with carmakers as Toyota Motor declining on a stronger Yen. USD/JPY trades at 93.00. Copper prices, a strong indicator for economic growth, sank to its lowest level since August. Gold and silver prices plunged with Gold at USD 1546 an ounce. Oil prices fell two dollar a barrel.

The European Central bank (ECB) is meeting today in the aftermath of a botched attempt to rescue Cyprus. Bank shares have been tumbling across the Euro area and rattled confidence in policy maker’s ability to tame the sovereign debt crisis. With unemployment reaching a record high of 12,5%, doubts are growing about Mario Draghi’s forecast for a second-half economic recovery. The austerity measures prescribed from European bankers and politicians have so far dragged Europe into an even deeper recession.

The disconnect between official low lending rates and those businesses are actually charged, is also a growing concern for the ECB. More than four times as many small businesses in Spain were rejected loans in the second half of 2012 than in Germany or walked away from, too, expansive offers. The excess liquidity in the banking sector has halved over the last half year and lenders in the south European periphery might be in need of more central bank funding.

In front of today’s meeting critical questions are asked on the role ECB plaid in the Cyprus bailout. ECB initially welcomed and supported the Cypriot government’s plan to confiscate funds on all banking accounts including those below Euro 100 000. This was rejected by the Cypriot Parliament. A revised agreement was negotiated a week later under the threat of ECB cutting emergency funding to Cypriot banks. Additionally; capital controls were for the first time in the EU history introduced to avoid capital flight. Free movement of capital is one of the four basic freedoms EU cooperation is built upon.

The confiscation of private accounts and introduction of capital control have damaged investor confidence and banks reputation across the Euro zone. Between March 15 and 27 the Stoxx Europe 600 Bank index dropped 6,8%. The cost of insuring against default on European bank bonds have surged 41% in the same period. Partially responsible for a flawed bailout plan being presented to Parliament, ECB exacerbated markets reactions to the bailout and simultaneously harmed the trust in Europe’s crisis fighting abilities.

Analysts stress that even if the error originated in Cyprus, Euro Finance ministers and ECB’s big miscalculation were to support a flawed plan. This resulted in increased financial stress and uncertainties in global markets. The trust in the Euro was undermined. Whether Mario Draghi and the ECB today would be able to present the right damage limiting response, is an open question.

Three Supreme Court judges appointed by President Nicos Anastasiades will today start investigations into a decade of financial profligacy which brought Cyprus to its knees. They have also a mandate to look into the President’s own affairs after accusations of tipoffs that presumably saved close family for big amounts when of 21 million euros were transferred abroad days before the bailout plan was announced. 

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14 March 2013: Retail report boosts DOW to new high

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Surprisingly strong retail sales helped the Dow Jones Industrial to rise for the ninth straight session in a stock rally not seen since 1996. The new record high posted for DOW is 14 455. Also Nasdaq edged higher to 3 245. Trading volume was light with investors consolidating positions after a strong run up in the three first months of the year. Sign of strength in the economy and the Federal Reserve’s (FED) monetary easing have accelerated the advance of US equities, but many investors are asking whether we are in for a technical correction. The retail sales report helped underscore the impression that the economy is gaining momentum.

Asian shares fell for the second day in row with regional factors outweighing the positive sentiments from another Wall Street record close. The MSCI-index for Asia-Pacific was down 0,6%. Australia plunged 1% in spite of positive employment numbers. The Australian dollar reacted positive to the employment news and hit a five-week high. The Japanese Nikkei bucked the negative trend and added 0,4%. Net inflows in Japanese mutual funds reached USD 11 billion in February. A domestic stock rally for the last four months have increased investor’s appetite for Japanese stocks.

Monetary policy direction remains diverse in Asia as countries also watch development in Chinese economy and North Korea closely. Japan wants powerful monetary easing to get out of a vicious deflation spiral harming its economy for two decades. Other central bankers are fearful of inflation. South Korea has been holding the interest rate steady at 2,75% for the last half year.

The Australian dollar jumped to USD 1,0383 after employment soared by 71 000 in February. JPY continues to gain strengthen against USD trading at 96,03 down from its 96,71 peak on Tuesday. Euro/JPY has also retreated from its record high on Tuesday. The brighter forecast for the US economy has negatively affected the Euro trading down to 1,2947. The yield on Italian short and long term bonds increased during yesterday’s auction, the first after the rating agency Fitch downgraded Italy’s credit rating in February. Investor’s attention will today turn to the Spanish bond auction.

Oil prices, gold and silver have dropped since yesterday. NYMEX crude trades at USD 92,28 a barrel. Brent crude is down to 108,40. Gold trades at USD 1586 an ounce. 

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12 March 2013: Asian stocks higher on record Wall Street

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Wall Street’s record close overnight bolstered most Asian shares on Tuesday. Growing confidence in the US economy underpinned investors risk appetite. The Japanese yen slipped to fresh lows on speculation over imminent monetary easing. USD/JPY stands at a new low of 96,51. JPY is losing ground also against Euro and Australian dollar. Euro/USD is trading at 1.3027.

The US stock indexes extended its winning streak to seven sessions and touched its highest intraday level since October 2007. Dow Jones closed at a record high 14 447. The MSCI-index for Asia-Pacific also continued up led by financials echoing US trading where finance were the best performing sector. Also Australia, Hong Kong and Shanghai were up as the Japanese Nikkei. The weaker yen is giving exporters a welcomed boost and Nikkei was up for the eight day in row.

The dollar index, DXY, has benefited from last week’s strong labor data, and continues to jump against the yen. Analysts stress that dollar/yen may take a pause in the second quarter when seasonal weaknesses typically slow US economic indicators. They see a possible USD/JPY downside on 92 yen to a dollar with strong technical support around the 90 level. For now the trend is clearly towards a continued weaker yen.

Euro/USD is steady at 1.3030 level. The Euro is under pressure from Italy’s inconclusive last month elections which are weighing in and delaying the country’s fiscal reform efforts. Gold has edged to 1583 marginally up from yesterday. In new York US crude, NYMEX, traded up 0,2% at USD 92,21 a barrel. Brent crude trades up from below 110 to USD 110,20 a barrel.

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11 March 2013: US-Dollar keeps the upper hand

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The USD keeps the upper hand in the currencies markets and continue to gain both against a currency basket and major currencies as Euro, GBP and JPY. USD/JPY traded at 96,10 – a 3-and-a-half year high following surprisingly strong USD labor data on Friday. US employers added a more-than-expected 236 000 workers to their payrolls in February. The jobless rate fell to a four year low of 7,7%.

There is still a way to go before the unemployment numbers reach the 6,5% target set by the Federal Reserve (FED) and monetary easing is reconsidered. Before this target is obtained the US economy must produce more than 200 000 monthly jobs for the next three consecutive months. The strong February data has, however, created a momentum and new optimism that the US economy finally is turning and lying the financial crisis from the autumn 2008 behind.

Risk appetite was, however, curbed by a mixed bag of economic data from China painting a patchy recovery in the world’s second-largest economy. The data signaled a looming dilemma for policymakers, as inflation stood at a 10 month high in February. Factory output and consumer spending were weaker than forecast. The data caught commodity prices between growing optimism of increased consumption and a stronger dollar. Non-dollar holders are buying dollar-denominated commodities.

In Asia the MSCI-index for Asia-Pacific was up 0,1% while Shanghai fell 0,3%. The Dow Jones industrial average posted its fourth consecutive record high on Friday. European shares also jumped on the strong US labor data. The strength of the dollar is also a reflection of more fundamental money flows out of the yen and euro. These developments nudge the dollar higher. Currency speculators are boosting their bets in favor of USD and raised their short positions in most other currencies as yen, pound sterling GBP and Euro. Oil and precious metal prices keep steady. 

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06 March 2013: Increased risk appetite on Dow’s record-high

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Asian shares extended gains on Wednesday following Wall Street’s record close. The Industrial average index, Dow Jones, ended at an all-time high as the pan-European Euro first 300 index closed at its highest level in 4-and-a-half year. The MSCI-index for Asia-Pacific added 0,9% while the Japanese Nikkei surged 1,3%. Copper, crude oil and commodity related currencies are all up. The USD DXY-index eased 0,2% against a basket of currencies.

The markets were spurred by fast February growth in the huge US services sector and bolstered by China’s announcement of record government spending in 2013. These factors boosted investors’ sentiment and hopes of economic growth and increased demand for gods. EURO, British sterling, GBP, and JPY which have been the big losers over the last weeks, have consolidated and gained some ground. Euro/USD trades at 1.3065. USD/JPY is at 93.22.

The strong rally in the stock markets is partially a product of the monetary easing policies conducted by the US Federal Reserve since last summer and followed intentionally and in practice by several other Western central banks. There have been a lot a spare capital on the side lines waiting to strike. Over the last weeks and months we have witnessed a recirculation of capital into the more risk prone equity market. The new records are a result of this recirculation. Major investors are gambling on a turnaround in the global economy and pushed their free cash into stocks in spite of the problems in the Eurozone and an overheated Chinese property market.

Oil prices are also up this morning. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez lost his two years long fight with cancer and passed away this morning 58 years old. Venezuela is one of the biggest oil producing countries in the world, and Chavez has led a policy where a substantial part of the country’s oil riches have been transferred to the poor and have-nots. Chavez has also been a guarantor for domestic political stability and encouraged other Latin American countries to follow his suit. It remains to be seen whether the power vacuum created by his death is filled in such a way that political unrest and renewed pressure on oil prices are avoided. 

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