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Daily brief -Thursday 9 February 2017

By Daily Market Brief - Thu 9th Feb 2017

Not a lot

All quiet on the western front

In most cases exchange rates stuck to narrow ranges, exhibiting no sense of purpose and going nowhere. A shortage of economic data and a dearth of incendiary oratory left investors twiddling their thumbs through what, subjectively, was the quietest day of the year so far.

The pound was fractionally ahead on the day, though only by an average of 0.1%, the equivalent of 8 ticks against the US dollar. A "gain" of that magnitude is meaningless, smaller even than a rounding error. Sterling's only chance to achieve anything was when Monetary Policy Committee member Jon Cunliffe addressed the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. In the event his speech "Are firms underinvesting - and if so why?" avoided mention of monetary policy and exchange rate direction and left the pound unmoved.

Parliament took the expected step further towards activating Article 50 when the House of Commons signed off the Brexit bill to the upper house. The US was not an entirely twitter-free zone but the President restricted himself to family matters. He berated a clothes shop for dropping his daughter's merchandise because it is not selling. Shares in the shop - Nordstrom - added 4% on the day even though the S&P500 index was flat.

Small disturbance in the east

Like the other major currencies New Zealand's dollar spent Wednesday going nowhere fast. It was rudely awoken at nine o'clock (local time) this morning when the Reserve Bank of New Zealand released its monetary policy statement.

There had been a wide expectation that the RBNZ would leave its Official Cash Rate unchanged at 1.75% and that is, indeed, what the central bank did. However, looking back at the Kiwi's reaction it seems that investors were hoping for something hawkish in the statement as a result of the recent uptick in NZ inflation, both realised and expected. There was no such upward tilt to the outlook so the NZ dollar moved lower.

It was the day's biggest loser, falling by two cents - 1.3% - against the pound and dropping one US cent. To all intents and purposes sterling was unchanged against the euro, the franc, the yen and the US, Canadian and Australian dollars.

Hopes pinned on central bankers

As far as economic data are concerned it will be more of the same today. Half of Thursday's ecostats are already out of the way. The other half are of only minor importance, and that's being generous.

Germany's trade surplus narrowed in December, with exports down and imports flat. Swiss unemployment was steady at 3.3%. Canadian new house prices and US wholesale inventories come out after lunch.

So it all hangs on Philip Lowe of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Federal Reserve's James Bullard and Charles Evans, who have speaking engagements. It is fair to expect that none of them will say anything to set the market alight. But be patient: the UK production and trade figures come out tomorrow.

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