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Powell on policy

Down under

For a second day the Australian dollar was the weakest among the big-league currencies. The British pound was ahead of it by just a fifth of a cent, sharing penultimate place with the NZ dollar.  

The Aussie's decline was an extension of its retreat from downtrend resistance a week ago. Yesterday morning's NAB Monthly Business Survey certainly did it no favours but it was no more than a punctuation mark in the Aussie's downward progress. The same can be said of this morning's Westpac consumer confidence measure. It was 4.1% - four points - lower on the month at 96.5. The report described the fall as "troubling" against a background of supposedly positive factors such as lower interest rates, tax cuts and stabilising house prices.  

For the Kiwi it was another case of bad luck. It did nothing wrong, but was unable to escape the Aussie's gravity well. It was particularly unlucky to be hit by technical troubles when sell stop orders were triggered by a downward move through US$0.6600, though it later recovered above that level.

Brexit angst

For sterling it was a return of Brexit angst, as parliament narrowly approved a motion to complicate any potential effort to suspend it and Tory leadership contenders clashed in their lively TV debate. A no-deal Brexit remains a real possibility in the eyes of investors.

The move in parliament, which passed with a one-vote majority of 294-293, requires ministers to make fortnightly reports to the House on progress towards restarting the Northern Ireland Assembly. The optimistic assumption of its supporters is that the House will have to be sitting if it is to receive the reports and cannot therefore be prorogued.

On prime-time television the head-to-head debate between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson was more enlightening than their previous one-at-a-time encounters. Hunt accused Johnson of not willing to "put his neck on the line" by saying if he was PM he would quit if he missed the 31 October deadline. There was no specific reaction from sterling, rather a death of thousand cuts as it lost ground throughout the day.

UK output and two central banks

Analysts predict that the UK manufacturing and industrial production figures this morning will all be positive. That would be unusual. They also predict a 0.3% monthly expansion of gross domestic product in May. That would be a miracle.

There is another GDP due out today too, the NIESR's estimate for the second quarter. Investors are expecting to see a 0.1% contraction. Other data today cover Norwegian inflation - already out at 1.9% - and Italian industrial output.

The important action comes this afternoon. At three o'clock the Bank of Canada is expected to announce that its benchmark interest rate has been left unchanged at 1.75%. At the same time Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell will attend the House Financial Services Committee to discuss the Monetary Policy Report which he submitted to them last week. The interesting bit for investors is not the report itself but the probing questions from the committee and the way the chairman answers them.

GBP: Trouble with no-deal worries

GBP: Trouble with no-deal worries

AUD: Troubling consumer confidence decline

AUD: Troubling consumer confidence decline

NZD: Troubled by stop orders

NZD: Troubled by stop orders

CAD: No change expected from BoC

CAD: No change expected from BoC

USD: Fed chair to answer questions in the House

USD: Fed chair to answer questions in the House

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