- Bernanke cements expectations for a 50 bp rate cut Jan. 30

- Rate cuts unlikely to stem fears of a US recession

- Slower China is hitting global growth expectations

- Inflation, housing data are keys next week

- Bernanke to testify before Congress on Jan. 17

The USD is finishing the week mixed against other major currencies, with gains against the JPY, GBP and CAD, but lower against EUR, CHF, AUD and NZD. US stock market declines continue to overshadow all other market developments, providing one reason why the USD remains relatively rangebound. Important developments in the past week were Fed Chairman Bernanke’s downbeat economic assessment and vows to take timely and decisive action to support the economy. His comments on Thursday effectively put a lock on a 50 bp rate cut to 3.75% on Jan. 30. However, stock market losses on Friday convinced traders that there was room for even steeper rate cuts, as Fed Fund futures began pricing in nearly 40% likelihood of a 75 bp. rate cut. Against this backdrop, the USD held up remarkably well, failing to extend losses against the EUR beyond the EUR/USD highs seen after the Dec. NFP report at 1.4825.

The Bank of England (BOE) held rates steady this week, against my call for a cut, but GBP failed to sustain short-lived post-announcement gains and is limping out to end the week lower across the board. A 25 bp rate cut in February is all but assured, with the BOE likely delaying only to get the quarterly inflation report as political cover before cutting. ECB Pres. Trichet retained his hawkish outlook, confirming that the ECB holds a tightening bias, but I continue to maintain that ECB rates are not going any higher, leaving Trichet still blowing smoke. In the unlikely event that the ECB were to tighten rates, I think the EUR would ultimately suffer as European credit markets, banks, and consumers would all recoil in horror. Canadian data, most notably the Dec. employment decline (-18.7K vs. exp. +15.0K), continued to come in on the weak side, increasing the view that the Canadian economy is softening alongside the US.

China reported a drop in its trade surplus and the slowest growth in exports in two years along with the smallest increase in money supply in seven months, suggesting that slower growth is also appearing there. In recent months, the Chinese have allowed the Yuan to appreciate faster and continue to enact measures to curb bank lending, to prevent the economy from overheating. These measures finally appear to be taking hold, triggering fears that slower growth in China will ultimately lead to slower global growth. That in turn has seen oil prices and the Baltic Freight Index, a measure of transport demand linked to global growth, drop back further.

US financial markets continue to be roiled by announcements of massive write downs and losses at major US financial firms, with Citi, Chase and Merrill expected to report significant new losses next week. While losses to date have been concentrated in the financial sector, consumer related firms are also increasingly under pressure, essentially providing evidence that the housing slump has infected the broader consumption-led economy.

The USD outlook remains for weakness based on slowing growth and lower interest rates, but it also remains uneven. The slowing global growth outlook will also affect other currencies, especially those with a commodity base such as AUD and CAD, but also GBP, which faces its own unique set of challenges. EUR retains the best prospects against most, but even there the trajectory has faded. I continue to look for further range trading in EUR/USD, with the upside trigger to further gains at 1.4820 opening room back to the all-time highs at 1.4970/75. But I look for such strength to eventually fade and for a relapse back to the 1.43-1.45 area. USD/JPY looks to have the clearest path, and it should be lower, as financial market volatility keeps carry trade (JPY-cross) selling the dominant theme. Strength beyond the 110.40/50 area, the base of the Ichimoku cloud, will be needed to alter that view.

US data out next week starts out with inflation reports, but ends with housing data, always a soft spot. On Tuesday, Dec. PPI is out along with Dec. advance retail sales, which may provide further evidence of consumers pulling back. Wednesday sees Dec. CPI, with core YoY CPI expected to rise to 2.4% from 2.3%, Nov. TIC data, Dec. industrial production and capacity utilization, Jan. NAHB housing market index. Wednesday afternoon sees the release of the Fed’s Beige Book, which will be a critical assessment to gauge the extent of the US slowdown. Thursday sees Dec. housing starts, building permits, weekly jobless claims, and the Philadelphia Fed index. Friday sees January preliminary Univ. of Michigan consumer sentiment and Dec. leading indicators. Fed speakers next week are bunched together on Thursday, beginning with Cleveland Fed’s Pianalto, Dallas fed’s Fisher, and Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart. Fed Chair Bernanke will be the highlight on Thursday, testifying to Congress on the US economic outlook on Thursday morning. Richmond Fed’s Lacker rounds out Fed speakers on Friday.

Eurozone data sees Nov. Eurozone industrial production on Monday. Tuesdays sees Jan. ZEW investor economic sentiment for both Germany and the Eurozone, with sharp declines expected in both. Wednesday sees final Dec. German CPI and Eurozone Dec. CPI. Thursday sees Nov. Eurozone trade balance and construction output. There is no significant data out on Friday.

Japanese data starts on Wednesday morning with Nov. machine orders, Dec. domestic corporate goods price index and the Nov. current account balance. Thursday sees final Nov. industrial production and capacity utilization. Friday morning begins with the Nov. Tertiary Index (service sector) and sees Dec. consumer confidence and the government’s monthly economic assessment in the afternoon.

UK data sees Dec. PPI on Monday along with DCLG Nov. housing prices. Midnight Tuesday sees the release of the RICS house price balance, a key measure of housing prices. Tuesday morning sees Dec. CPI and RPI. Wednesday sees Dec. employment data and Nov. average earnings reports. Friday sees Dec. retail sales.

Disclaimer: The information and opinions in this report are for general information use only and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any currency. All opinions and information contained in this report are subject to change without notice. This report has been prepared without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any particular recipient. While the information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, author does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness, nor does author assume any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions.