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Here's one possible reason why Europeans have turned out in such large numbers in protest of the U.S. stand on Iraq: They've got too much time on their hands.

More than 4.5 million workers in Europe's biggest economy, Germany, don't have jobs. That's an increase of two-tenths of a percent from December to January. Unemployment there now stands at 10.3%, the highest in four and a half years.

Not only are Germans working less, they're staying out of shops. Retail sales in December, traditionally a purchase-happy month, actually fell month over month on a seasonally adjusted basis.

High unemployment and flagging consumption suggest that Europe's largest economy will probably show another quarter of flat gross domestic product when fourth-quarter results are released this Wednesday.

European Central Bank head Wim Duisenberg reinforced this view over the weekend, stating at the Group of Seven meeting that the "weaker outlook" would likely prompt the bank to lower Europe's growth forecast for the year.

European governments have practically no room to stimulate economies, thanks to the fiscal rigidity of the Growth and Stability Pact. This means economic stimulus is largely in the hands of monetary policymakers at the ECB.

The odds-on bet now is that the ECB will have to cut interest rates to goose the economy and get idled employees back to work. Euribor April interest rate futures, one of the best predictors of possible Euroland monetary policy action, are pricing in a 100% chance of a cut in short-term rates to 2.50% at the ECB's next meeting on March 6.

A Pause in the Euro

Lower interest rates would trim returns on euro-denominated assets, and that in turn would cut demand for the euro. The

euro FX futures

(ECH3:CME) chart has been hinting that the currency has peaked for the time being and could stage a more decisive pullback.

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Notice how the Feb. 5 outside bar down was followed by two lower highs. This action suggests that the downside targets of 1.0610, 1.0545, 1.0458 and 1.0354 could pull the euro's price to lower levels.

I'm an advocate of freedom of political expression, but the massive protests in Berlin and elsewhere suggest to me that Germans have too much idle time. Excessive employee protections and rolls of red tape in Germany and throughout Europe rightfully make capitalists wary of hiring, even during prosperous economic times.

Why aren't workers in the streets demonstrating for the structural changes in the labor markets that would stimulate job growth and real security -- the next paycheck?

Elsewhere, May


(SBK3:NYBOT) is confirming a doji top with a separating-lines pattern, suggesting a market top and pullback. The Commitment of Traders report shows sugar is way overbought with a net long speculative position of more than 110,000 contracts. The separating lines indicate the exit gate was crowded.

Marc Dupee is an independent trader and co-author of the book

The Best: Conversations With Top Traders. Dupee was formerly markets analyst and futures editor for TradingMarkets Financial Group. At time of publication, he held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send your feedback to

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