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Currencies: Dollar Makes Gains as Election Saga Nears End

The dollar is making gains today after what looks like a definitive end to the U.S. election saga.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last night that the Florida recount is unconstitutional, and remanded back to the Florida Supreme Court the decision on how to properly recount votes -- time permitting. Effectively this looks like a win for Texas Governor George W. Bush. And as noted almost daily here, election certainty lends itself to a stronger equity market and a stronger U.S. currency.

Elsewhere overnight, there were "three very high profile reports that suggest that the economic weakness [as seen in the U.S.] is global," said James McCormick, currency strategist at JP Morgan. The reports include the Bank of Japan tankan quarterly report of business opinion, the latest figures on Australian gross domestic product (known as GDP) and a report on German retail sales.

This morning, the U.S. retail sales showed that sales fell 0.4% in November, widely missing expectations they would rise slightly. It was the largest drop since a 0.5% decline in April. But a 2.2% drop in auto sales, the largest since July 1998, accounted for much of the overall decline. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.2%, only narrowly missing the consensus forecast for a 0.3% gain.

Hints of a global economic slowdown, coupled with the latest court ruling about the U.S. presidential race, had earlier strengthened the dollar against the yen. The U.S. retail sales report has since caused the dollar to slip back a little. The dollar/yen cross was recently at 112.25, up from yesterday's close of 111.46. Earlier this morning, the dollar hit new 16-month highs against the yen.

McCormick warned that the recent Japanese recovery "is beginning to peak, and there are some clear downside risks going into next year."

In terms of the euro, "the dollar at this point has moved far enough, if not too much," McCormick said, due to ongoing concerns about an economic slowdown in the U.S. and the election morass. Since the retail report was released this morning, the dollar is losing earlier gains against the euro. The euro was recently trading at $0.8786, down just barely from yesterday's close of $0.8788.

The euro/yen cross was gaining slightly this morning, at 98.56, up from a close yesterday of 97.98

The dollar is losing early morning gains elsewhere around the globe. The British pound was recently trading at $1.4531, up from yesterday's close of $1.4488. The Australian dollar was also gaining on the U.S. currency, despite the economic slowdown noted in its own GDP report. The Aussie dollar was recently at $0.5420, up from a close yesterday of $0.5414.

The Canadian dollar is making small gains against the U.S. currency. The U.S. dollar was most recently trading for C$1.5211, down from yesterday's close of C$1.5280.

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