Euro, British Pound in Play Ahead of Key Interest Rate Decisions (Euro Open)

The Euro and the British Pound may see volatility in European trading hours with pivotal interest rate decisions on tap from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England. While neither central bank is likely to change benchmark lending rates, the commentary surrounding the releases is of utmost interest.

Key Overnight Developments

• New Zealand’s Jobless Rate Surges to Highest in Nearly a Decade
• Australian Unemployment Rate Holds Steady on Part-Time Job Gains

Critical Levels

The Euro and the British Pound oscillated near familiar levels in overnight session to stand effectively unchanged ahead of the opening bell in Europe as traders braced for volatility ahead of interest rate announcements from the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.

Asia Session Highlights

New Zealand’s Unemployment Rate surged more than economists expected, rising a full percentage point through the second quarter to register at 6.0%, the highest in nearly 10 years. On balance, the report in and of itself does not introduce a significant change to the near-term outlook for the smaller antipodean nation. Indeed, the central bank noted in June and reaffirmed last week that the labor market is projected to continue deteriorating “well into 2010”. The release is significant in terms of its implications for wage growth and thereby the overall trajectory of inflation. Private wages rose at the slowest pace in 9 years in the second quarter and outsized gains in the jobless rate point to more of the same ahead, creating a supportive environment for the central bank to lower benchmark interest rates. As we noted in this week’s New Zealand Dollar weekly forecast, a rate cut is the next logical step to help decouple the domestic currency from risk trends and check its recent appreciation, which has weighed on exports and thereby “derailed” the economy according to Prime Minister John Key as well as “complicated” the necessary adjustments to New Zealand’s public and current account deficits according to Fitch, a ratings agency.

Turning to Australia, headline labor market figures surprised to the upside: the Unemployment Rate held steady at 5.8% in July, marking only the second time that the figure did not rise since August of last year. The details of the report are not nearly as rosy as the headline outcome seems, however. Part-time hiring accounted for all of the 32.2K net jobs gain in July; indeed, full-time employment fell by 16K. Looking at the longer-term picture of employment trends, full time positions have fallen -189.4K in the 12 months from July 2008 while part time jobs have gained a nearly equivalent 190.7K over the same period. Simply put, this means that over the past year, around 190,000 Australians were transferred from full-time to part-time employment and thereby from higher to lower wages. Needless to say, this does not bode well for consumer spending and by extension for overall economic growth.

Euro Session: What to Expect

Interest rate decisions from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England headline the economic calendar in European hours. For the ECB, the name of the game is deflation. Consumer prices have now registered in negative for two months straight and are likely to continue along the same trajectory with producer prices shrinking at a record annual rate of -6.6%. Downward price pressure born of overall economic weakness is being compounded by a buoyant currency, which has boosted the Euro’s purchasing power and thereby helped to drive costs downward. Needless to say, entrenching expectations of lower prices in the future threaten to commit the Euro Zone to prolonged stagnation as consumers and businesses wait for the best possible bargain and perpetually delay spending and investment. Up to this point, Jean-Claude Trichet and company have focused primarily on offering banks unlimited borrowing ability, including an unprecedented 442 billion euro in 12-month bank loans, in the hopes that this would be passed on to the overall economy to both stimulate growth and put a floor on prices by making money cheaper. So far, this has not worked: although interbank borrowing costs have stayed well below 0.5% for over two months, this has not filtered through into the economy at large. Indeed, loans to Euro Zone businesses and households grew just 1.5% in June, the lowest since records began in 1991. European banks have yet to come to terms with an estimated $1.1 trillion in unrealized sub-prime related losses (courtesy of the IMF), a hit that could be compounded by losses from default or devaluation in some of the newly-minted EU member states, and so may be perfectly content to sit on the money they have borrowed for the time being. The ECB has also flirted with the direct approach, putting in place a 60 billion euro bond-buying scheme. Although it is too early to tell for certain, this seems too small of a program to have any meaningful impact. Bottom line, greater monetary easing is clearly needed if deflation is to be averted. A rate cut is probably too much to ask for and would be largely a moot point considering the bank has clearly allowed real overnight lending rates to drift much lower than the 1% target level. Rather, traders will be watching Jean-Claude Trichet’s post-announcement Q&A session for any clues that policymakers are open to expanding upon the current asset-buying program. The likelihood of such an outcome hinges entirely on the ECB’s perception of the moderate stabilization in leading economic indicators over recent months: if the bank believes that current trends could lead to a sustainable recovery, a wait-and-see approach is likely; conversely, if the bank sees the current environment as a temporary reprieve courtesy of government spending and (overly) optimistic financial markets, additional measures will be taken. Given the ECB’s perennially slow-moving approach to monetary policy, we tend to lead towards the former outcome, although the latter surely seems more prudent.

Turning to the BOE, an actual change in benchmark borrowing costs is effectively off the table, but traders will be closely watching to see if policymakers choose to ramp up quantitative easing measures after promising to “review the scale” of the program for the August rate decision in conjunction with the release of their quarterly inflation report. Despite the BOE’s apparent optimism and signs of stabilization in some leading indicators, economic growth disappointed in the second quarter, bolstering dovish arguments from the likes of the British Chamber of Commerce and the Shadow Monetary Policy Committee (a group of independent economists that meet at the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs). Further, as has been aptly noted by DailyFX Strategist Terri Belkas, the BOE has not done a whole lot better than the ECB having largely failed to affect lending to the real economy. Indeed, loans to non-financial firms fell by a record 14.7 billion pounds while the pace of money supply growth fell for the first time in close to a decade in the second quarter. The question facing the central bank now is whether they believe expanding the QE program by 25 billion pounds will make much of a difference to the program’s success considering 125 billion pounds have already been put in use (a total of 150 billion was authorized by the government). On balance, policymakers could make use of the recent upswing in sentiment as cover to retire the program and wait for the positive vibes now swirling around the world economy to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately, we are of the view that this will prove to be wishful thinking in the coming months as the flow of government cash dries up while equity markets are shown to be grossly overvalued and begin to retreat. Indeed, stocks finished July trading at the highest level relative to earnings since October 2003, which seems more than a little overdone considering the kind of revenue growth that can be expected in a year when real global output is set to shrink for the first time in the postwar period. How the BOE will deal with such an outcome remains a mystery for the time being.

Written by Ilya Spivak, Currency Analyst
Article Source - Euro, British Pound in Play Ahead of Key Interest Rate Decisions (Euro Open)
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What is Forex?

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The foreign exchange market (Currency, Forex, or FX) is where currency trading takes place. It is where banks and other official institutions facilitate the buying and selling of foreign currencies. Forex transactions typically involve one party purchasing a quantity of one currency in exchange for paying a quantity of another. The foreign exchange market that we see today started evolving during the 1970s when world over countries gradually switched to floating exchange rate from their erstwhile exchange rate regime, which remained fixed as per the Bretton Woods system till 1971.

Today, the Forex market is one of the largest and most liquid financial markets in the world, and includes trading between large banks, central banks, currency speculators, corporations, governments, and other institutions. The average daily volume in the global foreign exchange and related markets is continuously growing. Traditional daily turnover was reported to be over US$3.2 trillion in April 2007 by the Bank for International Settlements. Since then, the market has continued to grow. According to Euromoney's annual Forex Poll, volumes grew a further 41% between 2007 and 2008.

Forex Turnover

Forex Turnover
Main foreign exchange market turnover, 1988 - 2007, measured in billions of USD.
The purpose of Forex market is to facilitate trade and investment. The need for a foreign exchange market arises because of the presence of multifarious international currencies such as US Dollar, Pound Sterling, Yen, etc., and the need for trading in such currencies. Since you aren’t buying anything physical this kind of trading can be confusing. When buying a currency think of it as buying a part in that particular country’s economy because the currency rate reflects the economical situation of the country when compared to others.


List of most popular currencies on the Forex market

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