Daily Brief

Daily Brief

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When investors don't care

Lucky escape

The miracle on Threadneedle Street is the only real story from Monday. Lack of progress on Brexit, scathing criticism of government economic policy from parliament's Treasury Committee and a ghastly set of UK economic data could have created a perfect storm for sterling. Yet, on average, it is almost unchanged.

Britain's gross domestic product expanded by 0.2% in the fourth quarter, a third of what it achieved in Q3. In calendar 2018 the economy grew by 1.3%. Business investment fell 1.4% in the quarter and was down by 3.7% for the year as a whole. The trade deficit was wider than forecast in December. Manufacturing and industrial production both fell in December.  Most worryingly, GDP shrank by 0.4% in that month. With the best will in the world it was impossible to find anything positive among the numbers.

At the same time, parliament's Treasury Committee published its "unanimously-agreed" report on Budget 2018. It was not very complimentary. The committee took particular issue with the chancellor's promise of a Brexit "deal dividend". It said the avoidance of catastrophic damage to the economy cannot honestly be characterised as a bonus. But investors did not seem to be particularly worried about any of this. Yes, the pound had to take a few steps backwards but it is almost unchanged against the yen, the franc and the NZ dollar and down by less than a quarter of a euro cent.

Avoiding the shutdown

The numbers from the ONS were the only market-relevant releases during London's day. There were no more economic data to be seen until New Zealand opened for business. In Washington, however, there were signs of progress in the budget negotiations between Congress and the White House.

NZ electronic card retail sales, seen as a proxy for sales as a whole, rebounded by 1.8% in January after falling 2.3% the previous month. The Kiwi didn't care: it had just as mediocre a day as sterling. Nor was the Aussie worried by a sizeable 6.1% monthly decline in Australian mortgage lending: it is the sort of thing to be expected when an overheated housing market cools. There was better news from the NAB business survey, which found confidence improving from 3 to 4.

The US administration and Congress are said to have found a way to avoid another government shutdown on Friday. It is not yet clear that the president will sign up for it, especially if right-wing media see it as a defeat for him.  

Another quiet one 

The ecostats on today's list are South African unemployment and manufacturing production, US small business confidence and Redbook retail sales and, tonight, Australian consumer confidence.

Investors will not be able to find anything useful in statistics like those.  Luckily, there are some central bank bosses for them to listen to. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, his colleagues Loretta Mester and Esther George and the European Central Bank's Luis de Guindos and Ewald Nowotny will all be making an appearance.

Closer to home, at lunchtime the Bank of England's Mark Carney will be talking to the FT about the global economy. Perhaps the small matter of Brexit will crop up in the discussion.

GBP almost unchanged despite adverse data

GBP almost unchanged despite adverse data

NZD flat after buoyant retail sales

NZD flat after buoyant retail sales

JPY not in demand

JPY not in demand

CHF not in demand

CHF not in demand

USD leads on the day and the week

USD leads on the day and the week

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