Forex Markets Range-Bound, Looking to FOMC to Guide Risk Sentiment (Euro Open)

Forex markets traded in narrow ranges in the overnight session as traders saw past the immediate data docket, looking for tomorrow’s FOMC policy announcement to guide risk sentiment and set the directional bias for the US Dollar and major currencies. May’s OECD Economic Activity Outlook for the Euro Zone may shake things up ahead if it mirrors the World Bank’s recent pessimism.

[U][B]Key Overnight Developments[/B][/U]

[B]• Japan’s Trade Surplus Swells as Drop in Imports Tops Expectations
• US Dollar Range-Bound as Forex Market Eyes FOMC Announcement[/B]

[U][B]Critical Levels[/B][/U]

The [B]Euro[/B] kept to a narrow 40-pip range in the overnight session, oscillating below 1.41. The [B]British Pound[/B] followed suit, trading in a 50-pip band above 1.6420.

[U][B]Asia Session Highlights[/B][/U]

Japan’s[B] Merchandise Trade Balance[/B] grew more than economists expected, printing at 299.8 billion yen in May from 69 billion in the previous month. Forecasters were calling for a 210 billion yen result ahead of the release. Notably, the uptick in the headline figure came courtesy of a steep decline in inbound shipments that outpaced the drop in overseas sales, painting a grim picture of the spending climate in the world’s second largest economy. Imports fell -42.4% in the year to May, printing within a hair of the 22-year record drop of -43% registered in February. Looking ahead, the headline figure may continue to grow as companies acclimate to lower global demand. Minutes fromthe last Bank of Japan policy meeting saw policymakers note that exports will “level out…mainly due to progress in adjustments in local inventories” while consumption (including that of imported goods) remains weak as the “employment and income situation becomes increasingly severe.”

[U][B]Euro Session: What to Expect[/B][/U]

The[B] Euro Zone Current Account[/B] deficit may narrow for the sixth consecutive month in April, but looking beyond the headline figure reveals a picture that is hardly encouraging for the currency bloc’s economic prospects. The trade portion of the metric released last week saw the deficit narrow more than economists expected and the capital side of the equation also seems supportive: Euro Zone countries’ stock exchanges rose 15.4% on average in April while benchmark 10-year bonds from Germany, France and Italy (the bloc’s top three economies) added an average of 2.3%.

That said, the improvement in the Euro area’s trade position came as the fall in imports (-2.7%) outpaced that of exports (-1.3%), an ominous sign that suggests home-grown spending is relatively weaker than overseas demand. Private consumption is the largest component of overall economic growth so the latest trade data may be hinting that the Euro Zone will lag behind its main trading partners in seeing a meaningful recovery from the current downturn.

This is not to say the Current Account deficit will necessarily continue to contract: support from capital flows may prove fleeting if risky assets reverse course as traders see stocks as overvalued relative to future earnings given the increasingly negative global growth outlook, sinking top European exchanges. May’s edition of the [B]OECD Economic Activity Outlook [/B]may prove to be a near-term catalyst in this regard if the report mirrors the tone of last week’s World Bank forecast which downgraded their Euro Zone forecast to call for a -4.5% drop in GDP this year, an outlook that is nearly twice as worse as the Bank’s previous call for a -2.7% contraction reported in March. On balance, a survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg forecasts that the current account deficit will slice 1.5% off GDP in 2009, the most in 9 years, and take off another 1.2% in 2010.

Barring significant surprises in the upcoming economic data, near-term price action is likely to remain subdued in European hours as in the Asian session as traders look for tomorrow’s FOMC policy announcement to guide risk sentiment and set the directional bias for the US Dollar and major currencies.

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