Browsing articles tagged with " forex"
Oct 21, 2013

Man spills bag of sugar
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

It is reassuring to see the prominent coverage given by the Norwich Advertiser to a local motoring accident: “Person bumps their head in one-car crash between Swardeston and Mulbarton, near Norwich”. The paper goes on to provide further detail, explaining that “One person suffered what are believed to be minor injuries after a car crash in Swardeston, near Norwich” and elaborates that “Police said one person had bumped their head, but were out of the car and treated by paramedics”. If such an incident rates as one of the city’s most newsworthy events, Norwich is obviously the place to go for anyone in search of a quiet life.

But those for whom the flesh-pots of Norwich would be too dramatic and hair-raising might prefer to spend their time in the foreign exchange market, at least if Friday’s experience is anything to go by. Whilst it is never true to say that “nothing” is going on in the FX world, an observer could be forgiven for thinking that to be the case at the end of last week. The Australian and NZ dollars strengthened by about 0.5%, as did the Norwegian krone, the Swedish krona weakened by a similar proportion and that was it. Nothing else moved. The US and Canadian dollars, the euro, the Swiss franc, the Japanese yen and the British pound all start today within a dozen ticks of Friday’s opening levels.

It looked very much as though, after more than two weeks of angst about the US debt ceiling nonsense, investors had run out of inspiration. Well, almost run out: the prospect of a prolonged period of Federal Reserve stimulus has persuaded many of them to chase higher interest rates once again, hence the success of the Aussie (2.5% benchmark interest rate) and Kiwi (2.5%) dollars. That logic could have played a part in the divergence of the northern Scandinavians too, as the NOKky (1.5%) strengthened against the Stocky (1%), but Thursday’s news of an uptick in Swedish unemployment will have contributed to the move.

Friday’s only ecostats were for Canadian inflation, which was steady at 1.1% in September. This morning New Zealand reported a 6.7% annual increase in visitor arrivals, Rightmove’s index of residential property asking prices jumped 2.8% and Japan’s trade deficit widened to an adjusted ¥1.1tr (£6.9bn).

Completing the rest of today’s agenda are Italian industrial sales and orders, Canadian wholesale sales and US existing home sales. Even the most gung-ho speculator would be pushed to find motivation among that uninspiring lot. It could be another sluggish day for currencies.

Oct 14, 2013

Unimaginable consequences in prospect
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

A chap by the name of Les Price is by his own admission a bit on the large side, weighing in at 235kg. Travelling by air to Ireland he was told he would have to buy two seats because a single one would not be big enough to accommodate his substantial frame. Fair enough, thought Mr Price; he paid up and looked big, as he would at 37 stone. On his return journey, however, Mr Price was upset, and not a little perplexed, to discover that his two seats were in different rows.

Even had he been gifted with remarkable imagination, Mr Price could not have foreseen that he would be expected to occupy two noncontigous seats. A similar challenge to the imaginative powers of investors is the US debt ceiling, specifically with regard to what will happen if it is not raised in time to avoid a sovereign default.

It must be noted that nobody in the financial world expects the ceiling not to be raised. Rather, they believe the politicians in Washington – and we’re talking about the militant tea-party wing of the Republican party here – will recant at the last possible moment, thereby staving off default and doing what they can to avoid antagonising the few US voters who are not already hacked off with their antics. But it is equally true that nobody in the financial world has the faintest idea what would happen if something were to go wrong, leaving the debt ceiling unraised by accident. The nearest most commentators can get is to predict “huge unintended consequences” or something similarly vague. JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon said “you don’t want to know” what the impact of a default would be. And let’s guess that even if you did want to know, Mr Dimon would be unable to enlighten you. That’s the problem with unimaginable consequences; they’re unimaginable.

When financial markets in the Far East opened this morning there was a good deal of nervousness about the progress that had not been made in Washington over the weekend. Stock markets and commodity-oriented currencies opened lower, while the safe-haven yen and franc gapped higher. In the hours that followed, currencies drifted back towards their positions on Friday afternoon. Even so it is clear that, with only three days to go before US spending theoretically hits the buffers, investors are not as relaxed about the situation as they appeared to be last week.

And there is little on today’s agenda to distract them from what is not happening on Capitol Hill. The only European data are for Swiss producer prices and Euroland industrial production. And that’s the lot. Japan is taking the day off for Sports Day, In the States it’s Columbus Day and in Canada Thanksgiving Day. So it will be all eyes on Washington with the occasional glance at the doomsday clock.

Sep 30, 2013

Berlusconi and US Congress send sterling higher
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

Earlier this year the EU said it would need €7.3bn more to pay its bills in 2013. Last week it announced it wanted another €3.9bn. The EU Budget Commissioner maintains the cash calls are proof that the EC is underfunded. Others disagree, arguing that Brussels is institutionally profligate and cannot live within its means. The latest EU Fiscal Factbook adds weight to the objectors’ stance, listing expenditures of €200k on a rest home for Hungarian dogs, €300k on cocktail parties, €7m on an embassies in tropical islands and €3bn on advertising; more, apparently, than soft drinks giant Coca-Cola. But resistance is futile. Whatever the EC wants, the EC gets – willingly or otherwise – from its member nations.

The same is not true of the US government. As discussed here on Friday, Congress must authorise not only every dollar of federal expenditure but every dollar borrowed to fund it. The two decisions, bizarrely, are not connected. Even more strangely, the spending decision precedes the funding decision. So it is that the government is running out of money because Congress will not let it borrow to finance the spending it has already approved.

The story on Thursday night was that the Debt Ceiling would be reached on 17 October, at which point the US would, in theory, be unable to honour maturing Treasury Bills and Bonds. On Friday it transpired that the government would run out of ready cash much sooner than that. Tonight, actually. The new fiscal year begins tomorrow and if Congress cannot agree on a spending bill before midnight the government will be unable to pay for non-essential services. National parks are an obvious target for cuts, as are salaries for a wide range of employees (though not air traffic controllers, fortunately).

Investors have reacted badly to the news. Stock exchanges in the Far and Near East opened lower this morning and in Europe there will be a similar reaction. US S&P500 equity index futures were already down by 1% even before London opened. The US dollar popped higher in Sydney but it soon resumed the decline which had begun on Friday afternoon. Compared with its opening levels on Friday the dollar starts today down by three quarters of a yen and by one cent against the pound. It is steady against the Canadian and NZ dollars and the euro.

The euro is under pressure of its own, courtesy of libidinous Italian coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi, who thinks it terribly unfair that he might be banned from parliament simply for being found guilty of tax fraud. If prime minister Enrico Letta is unable to persuade 24 senators to join his coalition there could be another general election in short order. That possibility, and the sovereign credit rating write-down which almost inevitably accompany it, puts the threat of euro break-up back on the radar.

Today will be a busy one for the statisticians. Already out are Japanese industrial production (down by -0.7% on the month) and retail sales (up 0.9%), NZ business confidence (six points higher at 54.1%), China’s manufacturing sector purchasing managers’ index (all but unchanged at 50.2) and German retail sales (up by 0.5%). The Bank or England reports on personal loans and mortgage approvals at half past nine. Half an hour later there are inflation number from Italy and the euro zone as well as Greek retail sales. After lunch come the Canadian raw material and industrial product price indices (producer prices) and overall economic performance for July. America’s contributions are the Dallas Fed’s manufacturing index and the daddy of all PMIs, the Chicago purchasing managers’ index.

Sterling had a good day on Friday, keeping pace with the Japanese yen at the top of the league table, but its success arose largely from the misfortunes of others. Even if it gets a hand from the mortgage approval figures it will not find it easy to win new buying support from investors today. That said, if the political situation in Italy were to deteriorate, or a Congressional impasse were to put a stop to federal US spending, investors might be left with nowhere else to go.

Sep 23, 2013

UK public sector borrowing down but no cigar for sterling
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

According to its website, the Arts and Humanities Research Council is “a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills”. In other words, it is financed by the taxpayer. Last week it announced “nine large grants”. One of them, for the not inconsiderable sum of £1,940,000, will go to Dr Mark Maltby at the University of Bournemouth for his research into “Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Chicken Interactions”. Dr Maltby will spend the money on an investigation into “how the relationship between people and chickens has developed over the last 8,000 years”. The study will look at the part played by chickens in the construction of the pyramids, the effect of chickens on the decline of the Roman empire, the role of chickens in the Wars of the Roses and the impact of Colonel Saunders on twentieth-century American waistlines.

More recently, the chickens were out in force on Friday. They shied away from most opportunities to interact with currencies, leaving the majority of them unchanged against one another. The pound, the Swiss franc, the Canadian dollar, the Aussie and the Kiwi all start today within a dozen ticks of their relative positions on Friday morning. The US dollar is up by a quarter of a cent and the yen is firmer by the same proportion while the Northern Scandinavian crowns are lower. The South African rand was Friday’s biggest loser, falling by two cents as investors sold it in reaction to a $40 decline in the price of gold.

There was little inspiration to be found in Friday’s economic statistics. Italian industrial orders and sales were lower on the month and the year. UK public sector borrowing in August was £11.5bn, half a billion less than forecast but not low enough to bring out the sterling buyers. Spain reported a €0.8bn trade deficit for August. Canada’s consumer price index rose by 1.1% in the year to August, exactly as analysts had predicted. Euro zone consumer confidence, as measured by the European Commission, improved by a point to a still-negative -14.9.

Today began with the first of several provisional purchasing managers’ index (PMI) readings. HSBC’s PMI for the Chinese manufacturing sector was a point higher at 51.2. The improvement was enough to give a quarter-cent boost to the Australian dollar. France’s two PMIs moved in opposite directions, with services up by two points to 50.7 and manufacturing a fraction lower at 49.5. This morning’s readings from Germany and the euro zone are all expected to be positive, with estimates ranging from 51.1 for Euroland services to 53.1 for German services. The US manufacturing PMI is predicted to be the highest at 54.0.

Beyond the PMIs the only ecostats today are the relatively obscure ones for Italian wage inflation and the Chicago Fed’s national activity index. No figures of any consequence are scheduled for tonight.

With no important UK economic data due until Thursday’s finalised figure for second quarter gross domestic product, sterling ought to be out of the spotlight for the next couple of days. Judging by the way it failed to react positively to Friday’s better-than-expected public sector borrowing number, the pound might find itself drifting lower as investors’ attention is directed elsewhere.

Sep 16, 2013

Dollar falls on retail sales and Fed chairmanship
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

Forecasters at the Met Office received bonuses of nearly a million pounds for accurately predicting the weather last year. If their latest Yellow Warning for Scotland and Northwest England proves to be correct presumably they will get a bonus for that too. The Daily Mail rails against the awards, arguing that weather predictions are what the forecasters are paid for in the first place. But the Mail misses the point. Awarding bonuses for correctly forecasting nice and nasty weather alike is akin to rewarding FX traders for predicting their losses as well as their profits. Surely we would all be better off if the Met Office only gave bonuses for forecasting good weather.

One might equally hold that UK analysts should only be rewarded for forecasting increases in the value of sterling. However, a growing number of voices is expressing concern that the pound’s recent climb poses a risk to the economy. The industry group formerly known as the Engineering Employers’ Federation says “the higher pound is going to be an issue for some exporters”. The Federation of Small Businesses reckons the increase in exports “may be less likely if the pound is stronger than competitor currencies”.

Those concerns will not have been allayed by sterling’s performance since Friday morning. It led the other ten most actively-traded currencies, putting itself into first place for the day and the month. The pound gained half a euro cent, half a yen, one and a quarter Canadian cents and one and a half US cents. More tellingly, it added to Friday’s gains in the Far East this morning. As there were no UK ecostats to help its case, the assumption must be that sentiment is currently running in favour of the proud pound.

But it has swung against the US dollar. On Friday it took a bath as a result of disappointing figures for US retail sales and consumer confidence. Sales rose by 0.2% in August, only half the expected increase, and the Michigan consumer sentiment index fell by six points to 76.8 instead of holding steady as analysts had predicted. Over the weekend the dollar came under further pressure after Larry Summers, the proto-hawk and one-time treasury secretary, withdrew his candidacy for the job of Federal Reserve chairman. The belief is that his withdrawal gives the lead to Janet Yellen, who is seen as likely to extend the duration of the quantitative easing programme if she takes the Fed helm.

Today’s ecostat agenda opened with NZ confidence, which fell by a point to 115.4, and NZ house prices, which were up by a monthly 2.1% on an 8.5% increase in turnover. A -1.5% monthly fall and 4.5% annual increase in Rightmove’s index of UK property asking prices had no effect on the pound. Europe is mostly silent, with only Euroland inflation to threaten the equilibrium. Canada reports on international investment flows. The New York Fed publishes its manufacturing index and the Federal Reserve releases the August figures for industrial production and capacity utilization. The Bank of England’s Quarterly Bulletin comes out tonight.

Of those, only two have any real chance of moving currencies. Euroland inflation would have to be well adrift from the predicted 1.3%, which is unlikely, but US industrial production could well deliver a surprise. If it does, the dollar will be on the move again.

Aug 5, 2013

Sterling higher; investors nonplussed
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

The appointment of Peter Capaldi as president of Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe as Dr Who would have surprised the world and delighted bookmakers. The same would be true were the new Bank of England governor to fail to set out his long-term plan for UK interest rates when he introduces his first Inflation Report on Wednesday. The world is convinced that Mark Carney will deliver the “forward guidance” (as opposed to backward guidance?) that is expected of him, with a pledge to keep interest rates low for a number of years. The Daily Mail’s take on it is “Low interest rates are ‘here to stay’”.

The Financial Times gets closer to the nub of the matter with; “New guidance will stamp Carney’s authority on Bank of England”.  It certainly will; even the allegedly dictatorial Mervyn King did not presume to tell the Monetary Policy Committee which way to vote. That is what Mr Carney would be doing if he were to make a commitment on future interest rates. Whether with or without the blessing of the committee, the governor would be relegating the MPC to the role of a luncheon club that meets every month out of habit, for reasons its members cannot remember.

Investors are not overjoyed at the prospect and have demonstrated their lack of enthusiasm by giving the pound a wide berth in the last few weeks. That said, sterling came within an inch of being Friday’s top performer among the ten most actively-traded currencies. It was pipped at the post by the South African rand but advanced by more than 1% against the US, Canadian, Australian and NZ dollars as well as picking up half a euro cent and half a Japanese yen.

Another surprise was that the US dollar did not have a harder time. It lost a cent and a half after the US Bureau of Labor announced a 162k increase in nonfarm payrolls. The number was well below the predicted 184k and the shortfall was compounded by revisions to previous months which left the overall situation -48k shy of what investors had been expecting.

The biggest loser since Friday morning has been the NZ dollar, which is down by five cents or 2.5%. The problem there is a batch of baby milk exported to China which, unfortunately, contained added botox. Dairy exports are important to the NZ economy and the loss of reputation is likely to be damaging, especially in China where consumers are already deeply suspicious of the baby food stocked by domestic retailers.

Today is purchasing managers’ index day for the world’s services sector. China’s two services PMIs came in at 54.1 and 51.3, beating or matching the previous month’s results. Australia’s index was two points lower at 39.4, its lowest reading since the onset of the global financial crisis. In Euroland Germany is the only country expected to crack the boom/bust barrier at 50 but the composite Euroland index should also be positive at 50.5. The UK reading is forecast to be 57.4, which would put it at the top of the pile above America’s predicted 53.0. Other data scheduled for release today cover euro zone investor confidence and retail sales. Tonight the British Retail Consortium reveals the sales situation for August.

Beyond the PMIs, the most important event in the next 24 hours will be the Reserve Bank of Australia’s policy announcement early tomorrow morning. In the light of recent comments by the RBA governor it would not be a complete surprise if the Cash Rate were to be cut by 25 basis points to 2.5%. Such a move would, however, almost certainly be detrimental to the Aussie dollar.

Jun 10, 2013

US payrolls on target
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

 

The Direct Marketing Association has for years offered people an opt-out from junk mail. By registering with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) they can remove their name from companies’ data bases, thereby cutting down to near-zero the volume of unsolicited letterbox inflow. There is a similar facility for fax messages (FPS), telephone calls (TPS) and, mysteriously, babies (Baby MPS). But the TPS function seems to be working in reverse. A survey by Which? Magazine found that people who have registered with TPS to block cold callers are receiving twice as many as those who haven’t. Roll on the Lottery Win Preference Service.

Nobody received a call – hot or cold – on Friday after the US non-farm payrolls data came out. After a 165k increase in April investors were expecting to see around 167k new jobs in May. What they got was a 175k increase and a -12k downward revision to the previous month’s figure; a net increase of 163k. The difference between 163k and 167k is no more than a rounding error on a statistic like this, so investors found themselves in the invidious position of having to deal with an on-target non-farm payrolls figure. Was it good for the dollar, being in line with forecast, or bad for it, being appreciably below the last six months’ 206k average?

The quandary might have been solved by the uptick in unemployment to 7.6%. The Federal Reserve is aiming for an unemployment rate of 6.5% and a 2.5% inflation rate. Until those goals are at least on the radar the Fed is be likely to continue with its $85bn-a-month programme of quantitative easing. So the higher unemployment rate meant more bond purchases and a lower dollar.

Or not. Unusually, investors looked through the higher unemployment rate into the reasons behind it: As economic confidence improves, more people are entering the labour market and looking for work. Today they number among the unemployed but they could be part of next month’s increase in non-farm payrolls. However shaky the logic, investors took the whole employment statistical package as dollar-positive. The US currency strengthened by two thirds of a cent against the pound and by half a cent against the euro.

The only currency to do better than the US dollar on Friday was Canadian dollar. Compared with Friday morning it is two cents firmer against the pound. The Loonie’s big break came with a 90k increase in Canadian employment. It was the biggest monthly rise in a decade and totally eclipsed the expected 15k increase.

A slight narrowing of Britain’s trade deficit was helpful to the pound. Sterling strengthened against all but the two North Americans. Its biggest gain was two Japanese yen (1.5%) and it was unchanged against the euro.

The euro deserved recognition when France reported a 2.2% monthly increase in industrial output this morning but there was next to no reaction. The equivalent Italian and Greek data come later, together with Greek inflation and the Sentix index of Euroland investor confidence. The only other ecostats today are Swiss retail sales and Canadian housing starts. Tonight brings Britain’s RICS house price balance, Australian mortgage lending and NAB’s survey of Australian business confidence. There is not a lot to play with there and an exciting day for any currency would be a surprise.

May 20, 2013

More of the soporific same
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

Data from the Planck space telescope show “anomalies that can only have been caused by the gravitational pull of other universes “according to Dr Mersini-Houghton at the University of North Carolina. She believes there could be an infinite number of them. If it is correct, this parallel universe theory could explain many of the mysteries which trouble us today but it would also raise serious questions about our own. Was ours the only universe to be lumbered with Gordon Brown? And by what monstrous stroke of intergalactic misfortune did the nations of our Europe decide to apply the same currency and monetary policy simultaneously to Germany and Greece?

The euro fared reasonably well last week though, keeping pace with the pound and losing only a cent and a quarter to the US Dollar. On Friday it actually edged higher against sterling but lost ground to the commodity-related currencies, which pulled back some of the losses they had incurred earlier in the week. Compared with last Monday morning the Australian and New Zealand dollars are both down by 1.25%. In the last month the Kiwi has fallen 3.3% and the Aussie has lost nearly 5% of its value.

The one-cent gains of the AUD and NZD on Friday were the biggest moves in a quiet day for currencies. Between the US dollar, the euro, the pound, the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen there was no more than half a US cent of change. The few economic data delivered even less excitement than they promised, and they had not promised much. Euroland construction output was down by -7.9% in the year to April; Canadian inflation was slightly below forecast at 0.4%; Canadian wholesale sales increased by 0.3% in March; the University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment improved by seven points to a preliminary 83.7; Rightmove’s index of asking prices for UK residential property was up by 2.1% on the month and 2.5% on the year.

Today promises to be just as tedious. There are figures for Italian industrial orders, the Chicago Fed’s national activity index and New Zealand visitor arrivals. The Reserve Bank of Australia publishes the minutes of its last monetary policy meeting. In a parallel universe Greece will report economic growth of 15% in the first quarter and North Korea will become the 52nd US state but in this one it will be a struggle to stay awake until teatime.

Apr 8, 2013

North American Employment Stumbles
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

 

“Facebook” is a social networking portal which allows users to display pictures of their cats and send messages to one another. Originally the system did not distinguish between “friends” (acquaintances of acquaintances) and non-friends (the half dozen people not on that list); you could send a message to any of them for nothing. From now on though, Facebook will charge a fee for messages to non-friends, according to their popularity. To annoy Billy Nomates with unwanted mail will cost £0.71 and to pester Tom Daley, a champion diver, will incur a fee of £10.68. The price of a message to George Osborne has been set provisionally at £0.13.

That figure could change, as could the 88k monthly rise in US nonfarm payrolls announced on Friday. But the initial effect is always greater than that of any subsequent adjustment. Investors had been expecting an increase of around 191k for March and their disappointment was not alleviated by the 61k upward adjustment to the figures for January and February. As has once again become the norm, the weaker than expected economic statistic sent the US dollar lower. Compared with Friday’s opening levels it is down by a cent against the pound and by half a cent against the euro.

And there was even greater disappointment at the Canadian numbers. The net monthly change in employment there was -54.5k, the fall more than wiping out the previous month’s 50.7k increase. The news overshadowed a healthy ten point improvement in the Ivey purchasing managers’ index (PMI) to 61.6 and cost the Loonie half a US cent. It fell by a cent and a quarter against the pound.

The only figure sterling had to contend with was the Halifax house price index. It showed a monthly rise of 0.2% and an annual increase of 1.2%. The press release referred to “modest improvement” in the housing market and looked forward to “a modest increase” in house prices this year. It was all terribly modest and had no effect on the pound. As well as its gains against the Canadian and US dollars the pound went up by one NZ cent and one and a half Australian cents. It managed to pick up a quarter of a euro cent and was unchanged against the Swiss franc.

Sterling derived some benefit from a speech by Spencer Dale, the Bank of England’s chief economist. Talking to Asian business leaders he said that the idea of shifting the Bank’s monetary focus from inflation to growth was “dangerous talk”. His sentiments did not come as a surprise but were nevertheless reassuring to investors.

Figures released earlier today showed a six point decline in Australia’s construction sector PMI and a narrowing of Japan’s trade deficit. The Japanese figure had no effect on the yen, which has fallen by 7% against the pound since Easter as a result of the Bank of Japan’s more aggressive asset purchase programme.

A statistically quiet day lies ahead. From Europe come Swiss and German industrial production and Euroland investor confidence. After lunch the Bank of Canada publishes the results of its business outlook survey. Tonight brings the BRC retail sales monitor and the RICS housing price balance as well as Chinese inflation and Australian business confidence. Price movements in the Far East this morning were small and there is no reason to expect increased volatility during the London session

Apr 2, 2013

Manufacturing PMIs expect to disappoint
justine@orbmarketingsolutions.com'

Yesterday’s newspapers did not really excel themselves with their April Fool stories. The Daily Express told readers they could book a suite at Buckingham Palace for £10k a night. The Mirror showed an unconvincing picture of Virgin’s new glass-bottomed plane. Perhaps the best spoof was the piece in the Telegraph describing the Slovenian finance minister’s confidence that his country will not need a Cyprus-style bailout and there will be no precautionary exodus of bank deposits. Bloomberg’s story about Cyprus hoping to negotiate easier bailout terms with the EU/IMF/ECB troika turned out to be true.

If there was little fun to be had from the media there was even less to be found by the currency investors and traders whose job it was to make something out of London’s four-day weekend. The City accounts for more than a third of all FX turnover*. That doesn’t just mean that when London is on holiday activity falls by a third, it means that liquidity disappears and the market dries up. There was some movement; it is relatively easy to push currencies around when liquidity is scarce. But for the most part investors were content to take it easy and do the bare minimum.

Over the four days the biggest winner was the Japanese currency, which strengthened by one yen against the pound and the euro and by one and a quarter against the US dollar. The dollar itself was tail-end Charlie, falling by a cent against the pound and three quarters of a cent against the euro. The three commodity dollars all made modest gains.

Thursday’s crop of economic statistics was vaguely disappointing but contained no real horrors. A 0.4% monthly rise on German retail sales was overshadowed by a larger than expected -2.2% annual fall. Fourth quarter US gross domestic product (GDP) was downgraded to an annualised 0.4%; that converts to quarterly growth of an almost invisible 0.1%. The Chicago purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell short of expectations by four points at 52.4. Japanese CPI deflation accelerated to -0.7% and unemployment ticked up to 4.3%. On Friday a -16.4% annual fall in Greek retail sales was no great surprise and the Michigan survey of US consumer confidence surprised on the upside at 78.6.

Monday saw the opening shots in the monthly manufacturing sector PMI contest. The main one from China was slightly more positive at 50.9 and the main one from the States three points lower at 51.3. Australia’s performance of manufacturing index completed a year in the contraction zone, falling by a point to 44.5. Earlier this morning there was no reaction from the Australia when the reserve bank kept its Cash Rate unchanged at 3%.

Coming up today are manufacturing PMIs from Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Euroland and Britain. Only the Swiss measure is forecast to be in the growth zone above 50. Also out this morning are the German inflation data and unemployment figures from around the euro zone, which are not expected to look very pretty. The Bank of England releases figures for money supply, personal loans and mortgage approvals.

Sterling starts this morning looking a little out of sorts. After it’s broadly positive performance in March it might have to give something back this week.

*Source: The Bank for International Settlements’ Triennial Central Bank Survey 2010. A new one will be taking place this month.

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