19 JUNE 2013: MARKETS WAIT FOR BERNANKE

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Stocks led by General Electric grew higher on Wall Street yesterday, as markets eagerly wait for US Federal Reserve’s , FED, policy statement to be published later today. Both Dow Jones Industrial and the technology heavy Nasdaq added 0.91 and 0.87 % respectively on expectations that FED, for now, will maintain its aggressive bond buying program, which over the last half year has boosted stocks. Markets are gambling on continued monetary easing in spite of recent data pointing to an improvement in the US-economy.

FED Chairman Ben Bernanke recently stated that the bond buying would be wound down when the economy has proven stronger. FED has put a 6.5 % unemployment rate and an inflation rate below 2.5 % as benchmark targets. An improving US economy seems, at present, capable of growing without monetary easing, but FED has not yet decided on the final exit strategy. It is expected that a tapering of the bond buying will begin in September/October.

Japanese stocks followed the positive lead from New York, outperforming the rest of Asia. Nikkei rose 1.1 %, helped by a softer Yen. USD/JPY traded at 95.28 down from the 94.50 level seen over the last couple of days. The Asian Pacific MSCI-index eased 0.3 % led by a 1.3 % fall in mainland Chinese stocks. Hong Kong and South Koreas were also lower. The MSCI index has lost 8 % since May 22nd, when Bernanke indicated to Congress that a decision to wind down bond buying would come in the next few meetings.

The question for many investors is whether Bernanke will succeed in convincing markets that any tapering is conditional on incoming data opposed to the foregone conclusion: tapering is going to come regardless. The uncertainty has convinced most currency and equity investors to retreat to the sidelines. The Dollar has moved marginally over the last day. EUR/USD trades at 1.3390 after reaching close to a four-month peak at 1.3416 yesterday. Commodities, oil and gold are trading at steady levels.

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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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14 JUNE 2013: ROBUST US-DATA TURNS MARKETS UP

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Robust US retail sales and a drop in the weekly jobless benefits claims had a positive impact on global stock markets yesterday and this morning. Japan’s Nikkei jumped 1.9 % recovering some of the sharp losses the last two weeks. This followed a strong session in New York. Dow Jones passed the 15 000 mark again, adding 1.21 %. The technology heavy Nasdaq index gained 1.32 %. The Asian Pacific MSCI-index rose 1.4 %. Also Chinese shares recovered.

Volatility is still high in the currency markets. Better than expected economic data calmed global markets,after the last few days bruising sell off. Investors remained, however, nervous ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve, FED, policy meeting on June the 18th-19th. The Dollar lost at one point more than 1% from early gains against the Yen, and stands at a four-month low against a basket of major currencies, DXY. USD/JPY is hovering below 95 at 94.92 Yen to a Dollar. Euro/USD is at 1.3349.

The positive data yesterday appeared to have brought some temporary relief to markets rocked by speculation on whether FED is going to taper its monetary easing. The strong rally in global equity markets over the last half year, has been driven by FED’s bond buying scheme. There is an open question as to how the stock markets would be affected by a discontinuation in monetary easing, which other central banks have also copied. Currencies are most likely going to continue to be volatile until stability returns to equities.

Yen short and Dollar long positions have been built up to excessive levels over the last few weeks, and have contributed to the volatility in USD/JPY. Selling of the Yen was overdone and it seems that the latest market turbulence might have filtered out much of that excess. USD/JPY at 95 seems to be reasonable for now. The British Pound Sterling, GBP, is gaining ground against the USD, trading above 1.57. Oil prices are up on US- growth expectations triggered by the latest data. US crude futures stand at 96.70 and Brent trades at USD 104.73 a barrel.

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11 JUNE 2013: USD SLIPS AGAINST YEN AND EURO

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The Bank of Japan (BOJ) did not intervene in the volatile bond market and kept monetary policy steady at yesterday’s meeting. The decision strengthened the Yen. USD/JPY trades at 98.42 EURO/USD, which started the week at 1.3193 and has climbed 80 points to 1.3272. The Dollar, which hit a 4-1/2-year peak against the Yen of 103.74 last month, has since fallen.

Asian stocks sagged to a fresh 2013 low due to the Chinese growth worries and continued uncertainty over US monetary easing and its bond buying program. The Nikkei N225 ended 0.7 % down, while USD/JPY declined 0.4 %. The South Pacific MSCI-index shed 0.9 % and fell for the fifth straight day in a row. In New York, Dow Jones ended slightly down at 15. 238. Nasdaq was in positive territory, 0.13 %, after a 1.71 % gain for Intel, which was the winner of the day.

The international rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, raised the US economic outlook to stable from negative, from the positive jobs data presented last Friday. The upgrade will contribute towards keeping the speculation about an eventual softening of FED’s strong commitment to quantitative easing alive. Both global equity and commodity markets have recently been jolted by FED stimulus concerns, slowing growth in China, contributing towards the continued recession in Europe and big turbulence in the Japanese stock and bond markets.

This volatility clearly demonstrates the weaknesses of monetary easing. It boosts liquidity and exacerbates moves in the financial markets without having a real impact on the real economy. Abenomics led to a strong stock rally and a steep fall in the Yen. Over the last two weeks Nikkei has lost 20 % and USD/JPY is up 5 % . Most analytics continue to be bullish on USD and stress that long-term capital flows are moving into US corporate bonds. This will strengthen the USD.

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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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04 JUNE 2013: DOLLAR DROPS ON NEW DATA

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The US Dollar suffered a serious setback and dropped to one-month lows against a basket of major currencies on Tuesday after the index on the US- manufacturing fell for the first time in six months. National factory activity sank to the lowest level seen since 2009.

The disappointing data curbed speculation that the Federal Reserve (FED) would scale back its stimulus anytime soon. The dollar index, against a basket of major currencies, DXY, fell one percent as the Japanese Yen strengthened. USD/JPY dipped below 100 for the first time in weeks at 99.70.

Long positions on USD are, therefore, likely to remain under pressure until Friday’s job reports. The unemployment numbers will have to beat the expected forecasts of 165,000 less unemployed significantly, to revive the upside momentum in the USD, analysts say.

The renewed pressure on the dollar saw the Euro/USD above the 1.31 level for the first time since May the 9th. The Euro has fallen back to 1.3063 in the early Asian trading session. USD/JPY fell as low as 98,86 and has lost 4.5 %, 4 % from the high on 103,74 set last month. The dollar’s fall against other currencies, which had lately lost ground against the dollar, was even more dramatic. The Australian dollar rallied more than 2% close to parity with the USD at 99.92.

The US data led to a turnaround in Asian stocks which recovered from their lowest levels in half a year. The Japanese Nikkei has fallen as much as 15% over the last two weeks.The American indexes initially fell on the disappointing manufacturing data, but recovered in a volatile session. Nasdaq turned positive on Intel strength, and Dow Jones gained 0,82 % at 15 239. Oil and gold prices are steady compared to yesterday. Gold is at USD 1411 an ounce and Brent crude trades at USD 101,89 a barrel.

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31 MAY 2013: NEW RALLY IN CURRENCY MARKET – EURO PREVAILS OVER DOLLAR

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All conditions were created for a rally of EUR/USD: reports from the Eurozone were better than forecast, and at the same time for the USA – worse than predicted. The result didn’t keep itself waiting for long, the pair could go above the strong resistance level at 1.30, although it reached a maximum on 1.3061 and finished the trading session around 1.3040. It is quite interesting actually, that the data from the USA were not as dire as predicted, and the Eurozone in general was not presenting something really satisfying or exceptional. The conclusion comes by itself – the overbought USD gives power to the Euro.

So, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the USA in 1 quarter was reconsidered to fall from 2,5% to 2,4%, and the number of the unemployed who have submitted an application for receiving a grant, grew to 354 thousand. It is absolutely not enough to frighten Bernanke, but it is quite enough to provoke investors to close long positions on USD on tops. This also gave support to the British Pound and GBP/USD from the level of opening at 1.5129 pair reached a maximum of 1.5219, having finished the trading session around 1.52.

After disappointments with the labor market in Germany, today it is worth looking at the data on retails in the country. Usually there is direct correlation: there is no income – there are no expenses, however analysts predict the indicator’s growth, so tension in the market increases. If sales volumes will really increase, it will give additional support for further strengthening of EUR/USD to the next resistance levels on 1.3070 and 1.3110.

In relation to Japan today, it is worth acknowledging the statement of IMF (International Monetary Fund), in which it completely supported the current monetary policy of the country, and stated extensive prospects of its further realization. Furthermore, the problem with growth of profitability of state bonds is considered to be completely controllable. Asian stock markets started the day positively, however, by this time, buyers confidence had already evaporated. Japanese Nikkei slightly restores yesterday’s losses, while the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng again looks worse than its”colleagues”.

Prices for precious metals are stable, with Gold on 1417.08$ and Silver on 22.74$. Prices for oil are slightly down, with Brent on 102.07$ per barrel and WTI on 93.47$. Today the next meeting of representatives of member countries of OPEC becomes a key event of the day in the oil market. Questions on the current quotas of production, and also the increase in production of oil in the USA will be discussed. America now produces record volumes of oil, thereby reducing the dependence from former exporters.
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30 MAY 2013: JAPANESE NIKKEI INDEX IS AGAIN AN OUTSIDER

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After couple of days of moderate growth, the decrease at the Asian stock markets was resumed. Support to sellers is given by the Yen growth, though in the debt market – profitability of 10 year bonds, was a little far away from maximum levels previously reached. The reason for this, could be the speech from the chairman of the Central Bank, Haruhiko Kuroda, who declared intention to decrease volatility in the debt market, and also decrease interest rates by means of a monetary easing program in the long-term prospective. As a result, Japanese Nikkei lost -5.14% and USD/JPY decreased to 100.72 this morning.

The Eurozone prepared an unpleasant surprise yesterday- data on the labor market which showed growth of the number of the unemployed by 21 thousand against the expected 4 thousand. However, it couldn’t roll EUR/USD, which, towards the end of the day,returned to the day’s maximum levels, having reached 1,2977 and having rolled away to 1,2940 by the close.

There are some statistics which could influence further development of the EUR/USD pair. We are not expecting any changes of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the USA, but the number of the unemployed who have submitted applications for receiving a grant, is interesting, especially in the light of Rosengren’s statements yesterday from FRS, in which he noted that it is possible to reduce the volume of the buying up of bonds, if the indicators from the labor market and on the economy, will, in general, be stable for few more months. The lower the unemployment figures will be,the higher chances EUR/USD will have to return to testing of support on 1,2850.

Prices of oil following the results of the last trading session showed negative dynamics. Besides a noticeable decrease in the developed stock markets, deterioration of forecasts on the development of the economy of the two largest consumers of raw materials – the USA and the People’s Republic of China, became one of negative factors. Also, according to yesterday’s data from the American institute of oil (API) stocks of oil increased by 4,4 million barrels. As for gasoline, the volume of stocks grew by 1,94 million barrels. Today, price for Brent is 102,36$ and price for WTI is 92.87$.

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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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27 MAY 2013: INVESTORS LOSE OUT DUE TO BAD TIMING

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Stocks took a breather last week after signs of cooling in China, and what some investors saw as a possible change in FED policies. The Nikkei, which has soared since last November on hopes of economic revival, was the hardest hit with Thursday’s 7,32 % fall. Other Asian and European markets dropped as well, but not so dramatically, raising questions whether the bull market has come to an end.

Some investors blame FED-chairman, Ben Bernanke for the turmoil. Others point to a seeming difference between Bernanke and the board’s published minutes for late April. Investors might, however, blame themselves for unrealistic expectations and their gamble on a change in FED’s policies.

Investors have different motives in their bet for a change. Some are appalled by FED’s money printing and that there is no predicted hyperinflation. Others hoped that Bernanke’s monetary experiments would be abandoned. Such abandonment would have meant that President Obama’s entire economic policy had failed. The third and biggest group of Wall Street investors simply blame themselves for missing out on the stock rally. The general indexes have beaten the hedge funds three times since January.

No wonder many of them are frustrated. Fat bonuses this year might hang on their own wishful thinking for a quick change. Change depends, however, on objective analysis, and a correct reading of Bernanke’s careful wording. In his testimony last week, Bernanke repeated word for word what he stated since last September.

FED will continue to buy 85 billion of bonds monthly till the 6,5 % target for unemployment and a steady growth is established. The US economy is not quite there yet. It might well take another 8 – 12 months. The grunting from dissatisfied FED board members is not something new.Their hopes for a change in policies have been reflected in the last eight FED minutes.

There will, of course, be a change. But the timing will be decided by economic data and FED’s consideration. Investors lost billions of dollars last week on a wrong bet on the timing for a change. By now, they have hopefully swallowed their anger and are ready to meet markets which are hopefully back on track, ready for rallies and continued new highs.
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