The Euro was unable to push back above the 1.41 level against the US dollar on Wednesday and remained generally on the defensive during the day. Underlying confidence in the Euro-zone economy remained weak with further unease over the debt situation within Greece and further speculation that pressures could spread to other countries with some rumours of a forthcoming debt-rating downgrade for Portugal.
The US housing data was again weaker than expected with new home sales declining to an annual rate of 342,000 for December following a revised figure of 370,000 the previous month. There was evidence that sales demand triggered by tax credits was fading which tended to undermine overall sales and will reinforce doubts over the economy.
As expected, the Federal Reserve left interest rates in the 0.00 - 0.25% range following the latest meeting. The Fed adopted a slightly more optimistic tone towards the economy, but was still very cautious over underlying trends. The Fed also maintained the commitment to maintaining low interest rates for an extended period while there was a promise to gradually withdraw quantitative measures.
The vote was not unanimous as Regional Fed Governor Hoenig dissented with a preference for the extended period references to be removed. The majority will hold sway in the short term, but there will be some speculation over further calls for a less aggressive policy which could provide some limited dollar support.
The US currency strengthened to test Euro support levels below 1.40 following the Fed decision and there was sharp selling pressure in Asia with stop-loss selling pushing the Euro to lows below 1.3950 before a rally back to 1.40.