February 25, 2009
The currency and equity markets are turning lower after a strong rally on Tuesday. In my Daily Currency Focus, I talked about the 3 reasons why the currency market rally was suspicious. None of the reasons for Tuesday’s jump delivered real solutions. The market only rallied because Bernanke delivered no surprises. President Obama’s attempt at reassuring Americans also failed to comfort investors.
Instead we are faced with a weakening economy that is only confirmed by this morning’s plunge in existing home sales. Sales of existing homes plunged 5.3 percent to a 12 year low in the month of January. The housing market remains the Achilles heel of the US economy as prices fall and demand wanes. The median price of a home sold dropped 14.8 percent compared to the year prior. Such disappointing numbers are not much of a surprise given the big decline in housing starts and building permits. With banks and mortgage lenders reluctant to lend, even potential homeowners with sufficient capital have found difficulty attaining loans.
The British pound has been hit the most because Bank of England member Barker said that the weak sterling is helpful. UK officials have taken every opportunity to talk down the currency.
USD/JPY on the other hand remains an animal. Despite weak economic data and a turn in equities, the currency pair continues to rise.