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Daily brief -Thursday 19 January 2017

By Daily Market Brief - Thu 19th Jan 2017

So far so good

Pound hanging in

After Tuesday's strong performance it would not have been a surprise to see sterling giving back some of its gains yesterday. It didn't happen. The pound was, on average, unchanged on the day after the UK employment data left it unmoved.

There was nothing at all wrong with the jobs numbers. Unemployment was steady at 4.8%, its lowest level since the global financial crisis. Jobseeker claims were down by -10k, having been expected to increase. Average earnings were up by an annual 2.8%, beating the 2.5% rise in the retail price index and the CPI's 1.6%.

Investors were not overjoyed by the figures: the pound showed no reaction whatsoever. But the data were good enough to ensure that sterling held onto the advantage it had gleaned on Tuesday. The pound's biggest gain was the cent and a half it took off the Loonie and its biggest loss was half a US cent. Sterling was unchanged against the euro.

North American rates

The US and Canadian dollars were at opposite ends of the spectrum, both driven by the comments of their central bank chiefs. The Fed's Janet Yellen confirmed that US rates are going up, while the BoC's Stephen Poloz said Canadian rates might go down. No contest really.

Mr Poloz created the biggest ripple. With a nod towards tomorrow's US President he noted a "heightened uncertainty about trade policies in particular" and said "a rate cut remains on the table. The Loonie lost a swift half-cent to the US dollar and continued lower for the next couple of hours to become Wednesday's weakest performer.

By contrast, the Federal Reserve's Janet Yellen was unremittingly upbeat about the US economy, saying it was "near maximum employment and inflation is moving toward our goal". That being the case, the Fed is expecting to increase the federal funds rate "a few times a year". The Greenback was consequently the day's leader of the pack and it added a net half-cent against sterling.

May back

Britain's prime minister makes another appearance today when she attends the World Economic Forum in Davos. It will not be easy for her to recreate the same sterling-positive mood that she achieved on Tuesday. Nor can Mr Trump's inauguration tomorrow be assumed to take the dollar higher.

Since Ms May gave her Brexit speech a couple of banks have confirmed that they will have to move jobs from The City to an EU centre. Although it did not come as a surprise, the prospect of more of the same will not be supportive of the pound and it will be difficult for the prime minister to dispel that concern.

At the end of last year investors bought into the idea of Trumponomics; tax cuts and infrastructure spending. More recently they have been faced with the less acceptable face of Trumpolitics; swingeing import taxes and naked threats to car manufacturers. The latter could trump the former when Donald takes the helm.

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