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Daily brief -Tuesday 24 January 2017

By Daily Market Brief - Tue 24th Jan 2017

The Supreme Court rules, okay?

A great thing for the American worker

Thus saith the American president after he signed the executive order to withdraw his country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Except inasmuch as scrapping the TPP was one of Mr Trump's campaign pledges it did not come as a surprise. But it did not help the dollar.

For a second day the US dollar brought up the rear, losing a third of a cent to the euro and nearly one cent to sterling. America's withdrawal from the TPP was not solely to blame but investors see it as a symptom of protectionism. In theory, US import taxes and trade barriers would be positive for the dollar, even if they were to result in a shrinkage of global trade, because America would get a larger share of a smaller pie. In practice, investors are not convinced that other countries would stand idly by and allow Mr Trump to tilt the playing field to his own advantage.

As an example of how that might happen it will be instructive to see how the remaining partners in the TPP proceed. They could quite well move ahead without the United States, possibly recruiting China into their club.

The view from the bench

At half past nine this morning supremecourt.uk will hand down its judgment on the ability of the prime minister to bypass parliament. Last year the High Court ruled that the activation of Article 50 must have parliamentary approval. The government appealed against the decision and today brings the result of that appeal.

There is every indication that the Supreme Court will endorse the decision of the High Court. It could even rule that Britain's devolved parliaments must also approve Article 50. Although Downing Street has presumably teed up legislation to cover all possibilities, the more power the Supreme Court delegates to parliament(s) the more delay to Article 50 can be expected.

In anticipation of that delay, investors took sterling to the top of the class yesterday. It strengthened by an average of 0.4% against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies, rising by two thirds of a euro cent and by nearly one US cent. The US dollar was in last place for a second day.

The numbers don't count

Monday's economic data brought little to the table and today's are mostly of limited significance. The Supreme Court ruling and the goings-on in Trumpton will be what really matters to financial markets.

Yesterday's brace of ecostats showed a smaller-than-expected increase in Canadian wholesale sales and a tiny improvement in euro zone consumer confidence. Today's provisional purchasing managers' index readings are expected to point to a continued expansion of private sector activity in Europe and the States.

The only UK data on the list relate to public sector net borrowing. Normally the figure would be of considerable interest to investors. Today it coincides with the Supreme Court ruling, at the side of which it will pale into insignificance.

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