July 2009 - Daily Pfennig

A free, quick-reading daily e-letter on world currencies, economic trends, and the occasional baseball score.

Daily Pfennig

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  • A broken record...

    In This Issue..

    * Mixed bag of housing numbers...
    * Foundation work...
    * High yielders...
    * Commodity currencies again...

    Good day...and a Terrific Thursday to you. As Chris mentioned yesterday, I'll be steering the ship for the next couple of days while both he and Chuck are out so I look forward to being your relief captain. The fall like weather in the middle of summer has continued yet for another day in St. Louis, not that I'm complaining, but that out of the ordinary trend certainly hasn't carried over to the currency markets. In fact, I could probably cut and paste yesterday's Pfennig and you wouldn't miss a thing as the currencies traded in a very tight range, so there wasn't much exciting to report on...Oh well, instead of wasting space, I'll get right to it......
  • Dollar continues it’s slide...

    In This Issue..

    * Dollar continues to slide...
    * US GDP contracts but not as fast...
    * Nordic currencies outperform...
    * Japanese yen continues to fall...

    Good day... The last day of July is upon us. Time just seems to keep moving faster as it seems summer just got started. The fall of the dollar also accelerated yesterday as investors moved back out of the 'safe haven' of US$ and continued to shop for more yield. The greenback tried to stage a bit of a rally in early European trading, but has fallen back off again as I sit down to write the Pfennig.

    I got a call from a Reuters reporter yesterday mid morning to ask why the dollar was rallying at the same time stocks were moving higher. I quickly paged through my Bloomberg looking for some sign why both were heading higher. The trading pattern which has been established over the last few months has these two asset classes moving in opposite directions; good news for the US economy sends stocks higher and the dollar lower as investors retreat from defensive 'safe haven' positions in the US$. The opposite occurs whenever there is data which shows the global economic recovery is faltering, stocks move lower and the dollar rallies with safe haven buying....
  • Frightened investors move back into US treasuries.....

    In This Issue..

    * Jobs data skewed by 'seasonal adjustments'...
    * BOE surprises the market...
    * Oil falls below $60...
    * China's reserves continue to grow...

    Good day...Chuck has a bevy of doctor's appointments today, so he decided to let me take over the Pfennig. Unfortunately it will go out a little later than usual, as I always struggle to get all of my thoughts together so early in the morning. Its not that I come in late (I was here two hours before everyone else) but it just takes me much longer than Chuck to get it all on paper. But enough of the excuses, I've got to get writing.

    Weekly jobless claims released in the US yesterday morning fell below 600k for the first time since January but the continuing claims continue to rise, hitting another record. The slight improvement in the weekly numbers was distorted by the automotive sector. Car companies typically shut down plants in early July in order to change over to the new model year. Bankruptcy forced many of these plants to shut down much earlier than normal, and some temporarily started up production again during the past few weeks....
  • Bernanke sticks to his script...

    In This Issue..

    * Bernanke sticks to the script...
    * Pound sterling comes under pressure...
    * China starts shopping for assets...
    * BRIC MarketSafe lights up the phones...

    Good day... We had a very busy day on the desk yesterday, as our newest MarketSafe offering, based on the BRIC currencies, is making the phones ring off the hook. But while we were busy, the currency traders had another slow day as the dollar just drifted throughout the day. The return chart for the last 24 hours shows only one currency made more than a .5% move vs. the US$; and that was the South African Rand which increased .75%.

    The markets were watching Ben Bernanke's congressional testimony through most of the day, but those waiting for a surprise were disappointed. Bernanke stuck to the script which he had laid out the day before in the Wall Street Journal, and the members of the House Financial Services Committee couldn't get him to commit to any 'new' stimulus programs. Bernanke said the economy is showing 'tentative signs of stabilization' but the central bank intends to continue to maintain its 'highly accommodative' monetary policy for 'an extended period'. He indicated that the Fed stands ready to tighten policy, but only after the economic recovery takes hold and pressures holding down inflation diminish....
  • House prices move up, but consumers still aren't confident...

    In This Issue..

    * House prices move up...
    * US consumers are worried...
    * Japanese retail sales drag...
    * Australian rates to rise...

    Good day... We finally had a bit of volatility in the currency markets yesterday, as conflicting data released in two separate reports moved the markets in opposite directions. The dollar started off the day drifting lower, as has been the pattern over the past 2 weeks. But during the late morning the dollar started gaining strength, and has barely paused its ascent overnight.

    Many of you probably heard the news reports that home prices finally rose during the month of May, and this is what had the dollar on the ropes yesterday morning. The S&P/CaseShiller Home Price Index reported that home prices in the US rose ever so slightly in May compared to April. But if we look at the annual figures, home prices are still down just over 17% across the country. Media outlets trumpeted this 'feel good' story with many economists declaring that housing has now turned a corner. This is a good sign, as prices have to stabilize before the housing sector can recover, but it is hard to get overly excited about a 17% drop YOY. The monthly figure rose just .5%, reflecting the first monthly gain since July 2006. Another report showed the share of homes sold as foreclosures or otherwise distressed properties fell to about 31% in June, down from a high of 50% seen earlier this year. With unemployment still creeping up, and the US consumer continuing to save instead of spend, I am going to need to see a couple of months of stabilized prices before I am convinced housing is turning the corner here in the US....
  • Risk aversion returns…

    In This Issue..

    * Risk Aversion returns...
    * Money Multiplier dampens stimulus effects...
    * TIC flows show concern of foreign investors...
    * China back on growth track...

    Good day... Chuck got an early start on a two week hiatus from the desk, so you will be stuck with me writing the Pfennig for the next two weeks. But don't worry, you will still get a small dose of Chuck over the next week as he typically emails me his thoughts while on the road (I call it Pfennig Pfodder). Risk aversion dominated the currency markets overnight, as terrorists set off two separate explosions in Jakarta and investors moved money back into the 'safe havens' of the US$ and Japanese yen.

    Chuck wrote about this move yesterday, believing the bad news regarding CIT would probably cause a risk reversal. But the US stock market shook off the CIT news and rallied higher after a big earnings report by JP Morgan and a somewhat positive statement by Nouriel Roubini. Roubini, the New York University economist who is credited with predicting the financial crisis, said in a speech yesterday that the US economy might be close to the bottom. The stock jockeys took this statement along with the positive earnings reports and ran stocks up. But Roubini later tried to caution these bulls against reading too much into his statement, and reminded everyone that he has not changed his thoughts on a US recovery: 'I continue to see a shallow, below par and below trend recovery.'...
  • Risk aversion disappears again...

    In This Issue..

    * Risk aversion has left the building...
    * CIT survives without Fed help...
    * SNB tries to fight the markets...
    * Light week for US data...

    Good day... We had just an amazing weekend of weather here in St. Louis, and this morning is shaping up to be another beautiful day. Friday turned out to be a beautiful day for those who have taken our advice and diversified their holdings out of the dollar. Risk aversion was placed on the back burner again, and investors moved money back out of the dollar into higher yielding currencies. The dollar and yen got sold but all other currencies rallied, and investors also turned back toward gold pushing the metal above $950 for the first time in over a month.

    So what caused all of this confidence? First, the housing data released Friday morning in the US showed a slight pick up in both building permits and housing starts. While the housing markets have a long way to go, the data have given investors an indication that construction may have found a bottom. Not to throw cold water on investors confidence in the building numbers, but while the residential market may be bottoming out, the commercial market continues to tumble. I spoke to a good friend over the weekend who is a commercial real estate developer down in Memphis. He told me that his development pipeline has completely dried up, and even the brokerage side of his business has slowed. The only part of his business which has picked up is the marketing of foreclosed properties. He has shifted his concentration to helping banks and lenders 'work out' of commercial projects which they have taken back onto their books. The economy has kept most companies from opening new stores, and many continue to shut down under performing ones. My good friend tells me most of the people he talks to don't believe the commercial real estate market will turn around until the end of next year. Not good news for the banks who are still reeling from the residential real estate bust....
  • Feds Say NO To CIT...

    In This Issue..

    * Currencies have strong day...
    * What are the qualifications?
    * JP Morgan posts 36% increase in earnings...
    * RBA attempts to keep A$'s in check...

    Good day... And a Tub Thumpin' Thursday to you! The first day this week that I've gotten up and to work at my normal time. I hit the wall yesterday afternoon, went home, watched about 10 minutes of the Wizard of Oz (my all-time fave movie) with granddaughter Delaney Grace, and then went to sleep! Crazy, I know, but when you hit the wall, you hit the wall!

    Yesterday was a strong day in the currencies. I wrote yesterday about how the euro was inching toward 1.41, but the level had been a tough row to hoe, with the euro giving back ground each time it went higher than 1.41... And... That was the case yesterday! The euro did trade higher than 1.41. It was 1.4120 when I left the office! But, as I turn on the screens this morning, the single unit has fallen below the 1.41 figure......
  • Dollar rally peters out...

    In This Issue..

    * Dollar rally peters out...
    * Obama defends his policies...
    * Commodity currencies should outperform...
    * Global Power Shift Index...

    Good day... And happy Thursday to everyone! Hope everyone made it through the 'hump day' with no worries. We started the morning here with rainshowers, but it ended up being a beautiful afternoon and evening. Currency markets were similar to the weather here, as most currencies started Wednesday in the loss column vs. the US$, but rallied as the day progressed. The dollar had strengthened over the past couple of days due to 'safe haven' demand; but a surprisingly strong durable goods number (ex autos) combined with an 'all clear' signal from President Barack Obama had investors moving back into riskier assets. The commodity based currencies also got a boost as China signaled it would maintain an accommodative policy, easing speculation that the Bank of China would try to rein in bank lending. Lots to cover today, so lets get right to it....
  • Good news for housing is bad news for the dollar...

    In This Issue..

    * Home sales increase most in eight years...
    * Euro boosted by confidence...
    * Geitner sells the Chinese...
    * Carry trades back in vogue...

    The dollar lost more ground on Monday, but the reasons were different than those that caused last week's slow decline. Currency traders sold the dollar after a report showed sales of new homes rose the most in eight years. New-home sales in the US climbed 11% last month to a 384,000 annual pace. This was substantially higher than economists had forecast, and the most since November. The report also showed the number of houses on the market dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade. The housing numbers seem to confirm that the housing market may be approaching a bottom, but housing prices continue to fall, and more data is needed before I'm convinced the worst is over. Many of these homes have been sold to first time homebuyers taking advantage of government programs; and if unemployment continues to climb, housing sales are not likely to rise quickly....
  • The U.S. Treasury Moves The Goal Posts...

    In This Issue..

    * A 4-day rally gets stopped at the border...
    * Home Prices fall at a -18.12% pace...
    * Alice Rivlin gives her 2-cents...
    * Kiwi bond maturities galore next month...

    Good day... And a Wonderful Wednesday to you! As tradition with the Pfennig would have it, here's my introduction to July... There I was... On a July morning... Looking for love... With the strength of a new day dawning, and... The beautiful sun...

    Yes, for those 'old rockers' from the 70's like me... That's Uriah Heep, at their best!

    OK... So, welcome to July! The last day of June was quite the volatile one to say the least! There we were waiting for the S&P/CaseShiller Home Price Index to print, and show that home prices were still down by quite a bit, when it did, it did, it printed at -18.12%... But! The media was all over that like a cheap suit, clamoring that the spiral down in Home Prices had come to and end! Which, may be true... But wouldn't you want to wait to see if next month's report confirms it? And... By the way... Since when does -18.12% fall in home prices beckon a rally? Yesterday, would be that answer!...
  • Currencies Rebound...

    In This Issue..

    * Goldman posts a nice profit...
    * I smell a rat!
    * Euro nears the 1.41 mark... Again!
    * Gold manipulation?

    Good day... And a Wonderful Wednesday to you! Another All-Star Game, another win for the American League... I truly believed that with Tim Lincecum going for the National League, that we would win this year... But that didn't work out... I did truly enjoy the game though, and got to experience it with sons, Andrew, and Alex, with Darling Daughter Dawn's husband, Jerry... A truly memorable night...

    The currencies slowly moved a bit higher yesterday, and the euro is back to 1.40 this morning... The move came as stocks rebounded some, after reports of a better than expected earnings report for Goldman Sachs. Hmmm... Now, doesn't that just tick you off a little? Here's Goldman Sachs who just months ago, changed to a Bank Holding Co, so it could take TARP money, then paid it back a month ago, and now, prints a Moon Shot profitable earnings report... I guess I should be happy for them... Unfortunately, I smell a rat......
  • Risk Returns... Slowly...

    In This Issue..

    * Currencies rebound...
    * G-8 has no fireworks...
    * Aussie / China and coal...
    * Entitlements...

    Good day... And a Tub Thumpin' Thursday to you! I'm late, I'm late! I don't believe I ever heard the alarm go off this morning! I overslept by more than an hour, and will still be here more than an hour before any sign of someone else! But! That puts me behind by more than an hour today... I've got to play catch-up! So, let's get this Tub Thumpin' Thursday going!

    Well... Let's see... G-8 never had the opportunity to shoot fireworks because China's leader had to return home to deal with the street riots going on in his country. So... The call for a replacement for the dollar as the reserve currency will have to wait for another day! And, with that news, the dollar got to remain in the sunlight, and bask in the glory of being the reserve currency and so-called 'safe haven' another day......
  • China Is Back On The G-9 Docket...

    In This Issue..

    * Risk Aversion is strong once again...
    * Currencies get sold...
    * What's China really up to?
    * RBA to leave rates unchanged?

    Good day... And a Marvelous Monday to you! Some people have the day off today, so we'll probably not be back in full force until tomorrow... Not that we've been in full force, as a workforce in the U.S. for some time... But that's another story for another day! Today is a new day, and new week!

    Friday's thinned out markets were not what the currencies wanted to see, as the bias to Risk Aversion was magnified in the thinned out markets, only making the selling of the currencies even worse... Some 'levels' were hit in the thinned out markets, and that caused even more selling in the overnight markets as Japan and Asia came on board....
  • Blood in the streets.....

    In This Issue..

    * Red ink flows...
    * Japan suggests diversification for their reserves...
    * Commodity currencies rebound...
    * Data galore for the rest of the week...

    Good day... Chuck had a late night down at the ballpark watching the home run derby, so he asked me to take the helm of the Pfennig this morning. I'm going to try to get this one out a bit earlier than I did last Friday, so I'll get right to it.

    The biggest news to hit the markets yesterday was the Treasury Department's report that the deficit in June totaled $94.3 billion. This monthly deficit pushed the deficit for the fiscal year to over $1 trillion dollars for the first time, and we still have another quarter to go until the fiscal year ends in September. It comes as no surprise to readers that the deficit is above $1 trillion, but what is a bit unnerving is the speed at which the red ink is flowing....

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