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Daily brief -Tuesday 31 January 2017

By Daily Market Brief - Tue 31st Jan 2017

Interesting times in the States

Dunno

It was another of those dunno days for sterling. On average the pound fell -0.6% - one Australian cent - against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies, losing ground to every last one of them.  As for the cause of the pounds decline, dunno.

Some blame it on an expectation that the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee will be thinking dovish thoughts on Thursday. Some relate it to the announcement that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill will be put before the House of Commons today. Others fancy that the prime minister's special relationship with Mr Trump associates the British government with the US president's isolationist stance, in particular his travel ban on Muslims.

The one thing that cannot be held responsible is UK economic data, for there were none on Monday. Whatever the cause, sterling lost half a US cent, three quarters of a Swiss cent and a quarter of a euro cent. It lost two yen to the day's top performer.

Risk off

The Japanese yen led the way on Monday, its rise being matched by a fall in global equity prices. There can be no doubt that the driver here was Mr Trump's travel ban. The big US corporations that should be chortling about their anticipated tax breaks are instead fretting about the erection of one barrier to business after another.

What started out in Detroit, in response to the president's tough talk about building cars in Mexico, has spread to Silicon Valley. Corporate leaders there are complaining that key staff, including some of those leaders themselves, cannot leave the country for fear of not being allowed to re-enter. The safe-haven yen was the biggest beneficiary, strengthening by 1% against the US dollar.

Once again the economic data took a back seat to the executive orders, especially when Mr Trump fired attorney general Sally Yates for refusing to endorse his travel ban. Rather than waiting for the next shoe to drop, investors are now wondering just how much footwear the president has in his arsenal.

€Z inflation and GDP

Spain reported this morning that inflation more than doubled to 3.0% in January. Yesterday's German figure was 1.9%. The European Central Bank president will be speaking this morning. He might possibly feel the need to touch upon those numbers.

Mario Draghi's opening speech at the "Into the future: Europe's digital integrated market" conference is not an obvious vehicle for a monetary policy message but, it being a conference, he could well have to face questions on the subject. Later in the day the gross domestic product data are expected to show Euroland's economy expanding at the same pace as the United States, with growth of 0.5% in the fourth quarter.

The UK data this morning relate to lending and mortgage approvals and the US house price numbers come out after lunch. Tonight brings the New Zealand employment numbers and purchasing managers' index readings from Australia and China.

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