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Daily brief -Tuesday 21 February 2017

By Daily Market Brief - Tue 21st Feb 2017

Carney alert

Going nowhere

A mere 0.8% - equivalent to one US cent - separated first and last place among the major currencies on Monday. Take away those two and a range of only 0.4% covered the rest of the field. Not exactly a historic day in the foreign exchange market then.

Arguably the most interesting aspect of yesterday's action was the way sterling cruised ahead. Having mindlessly marked down the pound on Friday, investors pushed it higher on Monday, sending it to the head of the field with a quarter-cent advantage over the jointly second-placed US dollar and South African rand. Sterling received theoretical help from the CBI's Industrial Trends Survey which came in at 8, three points higher on the month and five points above forecast. However, there was not the merest flutter in the pound's value at the time.

Sweden's krona brought up the rear. Its decline seemed to be a delayed reaction to Friday's lower inflation figures. 

US interest rates

Just as reflection on those inflation data, and their possible effect on Swedish monetary policy, eroded the value of the krona, so consideration of the Federal Reserve's apparent inclination towards higher rates helped the US dollar into second place.  An increase next month is still imaginable.

Investors have been blowing hot and cold as to the likelihood of the Fed delivering a rate increase next month. The most recent "official" comment came from Patrick Harker, president of the Philadelphia Fed and a member of the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee. He reiterated at the end of last week his comment that a March increase is "not off the table". Investors were giving more credence to that remark yesterday than they were to financial futures pricing, which currently puts the chance of a hike at only 36%.

Fed chiefs had nothing to add to the debate yesterday as they were enjoying the President's Day bank holiday. 

Central bankers abound

As well as a raft of ecostats, most of them provisional purchasing managers' index readings, today also brings appearances by several central bankers. Representatives of the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and the Reserve Bank of Australia will be having their say.

At ten this morning Mark Carney will be talking to parliament's Treasury Committee about the Inflation Report. He will doubtless be asked to defend the bank's upgrade of its forecast for UK growth. Two voting members of the FOMC will be up this afternoon, the first being Minneapolis's Neel Kashkari at ten to two and the second Partick Harker at five o'clock. Governor Philip Lowe of the RBA will give speech this evening about "Australia and Canada - Shared Experiences".

Amidst the multitude of preliminary PMIs - among which the UK does not figure - lurk the figure for Britain's public sector net borrowing in January and New Zealand's grandly-named Global Dairy Trade index. Tonight Westpac publishes its leading index and the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports on wages and construction output.

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