Euro in Play with German IFO to Show Business Outlook Rose for Third Month (Euro Open)

The Euro may see near-term gains as Germany’s IFO Survey shows that business confidence in the Euro Zone’s largest economy rose for the third straight month to hit the highest level since May 2008, but sentiment may not be supportive in the longer term.

Key Overnight Developments

• Japanese Trade Surplus Shrinks on Export Weakness
• Australia’s New Home Sales Matched Record Gain in August
• RBA Says Financial System Resilient But Risks Remain

Critical Levels

The Euro consolidated near the 1.47 level in overnight trading, yielding a flat result ahead of the opening bell in Europe. The British Pound advanced, adding as much as 0.3% against the greenback. We continue to hold a short GBPUSD position, initially targeting 1.6112.

Asia Session Highlights

Japan’s Merchandise Trade Balance surplus narrowed to 185.7 billion yen in August as overseas shrank -36% from the previous year, marking the 11th consecutive contraction. Economists had expected a greater decline, calling for a 157 billion result. Export volumes shrank for the first time since May, with shipments to the European Union leading the way lower. The data may be hinting that the $12 trillion or so in fiscal stimulus spent by the world’s governments to stabilize growth that had boosted demand for Japanese products may be running out of steam. Indeed Bank of Japan chief Maasaki Shirakawa expressed concern that his country’s economic rebound may survive once worldwide expansionary policies are reversed. A stronger currency may have also contributed to the outcome: the Yen strengthened by 1.9% in trade-weighted terms in August, the most since January. While this would typically raise fears that formerly activist Japanese policymakers will intervene into the markets to drive down the currency, incoming DPJ Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii said last week that it was not the government’s job to set exchange rates and that a stronger Yen had its advantages, clearly signaling that Japanese authorities will stand aside from here. The trade balance is expected to continue to contract in the months, with a survey of economists polled by Bloomberg forecasting that net exports will add on average 2.4% to GDP through this year and in 2010, the least since 2001.

Australia’s Housing Industry Association (HIA) reported that New Home Sales surged 11.4% in August, matching the record-setting monthly gain in January 2008. However, property sales began to rebound in May after the government extended a scheme offering an A$21,000 grant for first-time home buyers, so it still remains suspect whether momentum can remain supported after the flow of stimulus cash dries up. Indeed, unemployment continues to climb, with expectations calling for the jobless rate to approach 8% next year, while the HIA’s own Housing Affordability Index fell for the first time in 15 months in the second quarter.

Separately, the RBA’s semi-annual Financial Stability Review was broadly balanced, saying that although the Australian financial system remains resilient and funding conditions for banks have improved, recent progress can owes significantly to government guarantees on lending and loan losses may still rise in the future. The central bank also cautioned that business borrowing has continued to decline (which spells trouble for employment) and the commercial property market has weakened, contributing to the possibility of renewed problems from bad loans ahead.

Euro Session: What to Expect

Germany’s IFO Survey of business confidence is expected to show that the pessimists about the economy’s six-month economic climate outlook among polled firms outnumbered the optimists by the narrowest margin since May last year, with the Expectations index rising to 96.6 in September. A reading above 100 suggests the majority of respondents were optimistic, and vice versa. While the improvement may engineer some short-term gains for the Euro in the aftermath of the announcement, it remains questionable whether sentiment will remain supportive as the effects of fiscal stimulus both in Germany and abroad that has boosted domestic demand and exports in recent months are exhausted. As it stands, a survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg suggests that the Euro Zone’s largest economy will underperform all of the G10 excluding Japan this year and remain behind the US and commodity bloc countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) into 2010. This suggests the ECB will be among the laggards as central banks begin to lift interest rates from current lows, an outcome that bodes well for business climate surveys (for surely businesses prefer lower borrowing costs to higher ones) but will likely weigh on the single currency.

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