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State of the union

Australia's day

Just 0.8% separated the Australian dollar in the lead from the Swedish krona at the rear. Taking those two out of the reckoning would leave a gap of only 0.4% between the NZ dollar in second place and sterling in the penultimate slot. Not a lot going on, then.

Most of what was going on related to the Aussie and took place overnight. First out was the Australian Industry Group (AiG) Performance of Services Index, a homespun purchasing managers' index. It "tumbled by 7.8 points to 44.3 in January… indicating a sharp contraction across the sector". The news hurt the Aussie and it got a second knock three hours later from retail sales and the balance of trade. Sales fell by a seasonally-adjusted 0.4% in December, a bigger decline than expected, and the trade surplus widened, but only because imports fell three times as quickly as exports. 

And then the Reserve Bank of Australia dug the Aussie out of its hole. As expected, the RBA kept its Cash Rate benchmark unchanged at 1.5% for a 31st month. The statement noted that "some downside risks have increased". But the bank's tone was far less dovish than investors had expected and there was not the merest hint of a possible rate cut. So the Aussie jumped a cent higher and went on to log a daily gain of 0.6% over sterling.

Building less, selling more

During London's day the only UK ecostat was the construction sector purchasing managers' index and overnight the BRC released its retail sales report. The former was anaemic, the latter showed a welcome bounce in January after "the worst December trading performance in a decade".

At 50.6 the construction PMI was the softest reading in ten months, with output rising "only marginally" as "a number of survey respondents noted that Brexit uncertainty had led to hesitancy among clients". Like-for-like retail sales were up by 1.8% from the same month last year while total sales increased by 2.2%.

There was not very much else of interest in dataland. Euro zone investor confidence slipped two points to -3.7 and Italian inflation slowed from 1.1% to a provisional 0.9%. There was another reassurance from the European Central Bank that Europe is not heading for recession, this one from Austria's Ewald Nowotny. 

State of the union

Tonight the US president will deliver his annual state of the union address to Congress. Ahead of that come the services sector PMIs from Europe and the States, as well as euro zone retail sales and Canada's balance of trade.

With the exception of France the services PMIs should all be in the expansion zone above 50. The UK figure is forecast to be a couple of ticks lower on the month at 51.0. The state of the union speech could be entertaining for insomniacs and could conceivably have an impact on financial markets.

Finally, a word of caution to those who might imagine that crypto currencies are "money". They are not, and a recent development in Canada provides another reason to beware. The operator of  the country's biggest crypto currency exchange died in December, taking the passwords with him. Around $190m has been lost by punters unable to access their accounts.

GBP lower on average, steady against franc

GBP lower on average, steady against franc

EUR slightly higher, reassured by Nowotny

EUR slightly higher, reassured by Nowotny

AUD leads after busy day

AUD leads after busy day

BTC owners locked out of exchange

BTC owners locked out of exchange

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