Daily Brief

Daily Brief

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Welcome to Brexit week

Patience is a virtue

The idea of an extension to Article 50 captured investors' imagination on Friday, sending the pound higher across the board. Sterling held onto the gains through the weekend and starts this morning an average of 1.1% firmer against the other ten most actively-traded currencies.

According to the Evening Standard newspaper, a delay to Britain's departure from the EU will be necessary even if the prime minister's withdrawal bill wins Commons approval tomorrow. There is not enough time between now and 29 March to pass the other necessary legislation, even if Parliament works weekends. The likelihood of a delay to Article 50 was heightened when a Downing Street spokesperson ruled it out.

Friday's rally underlined the close relationship between Brexit news and the pound's fortunes, and the way that UK economic data have, for the moment, been removed almost entirely from the equation. The figures from Britain on Friday were mostly rubbish, with monthly and annual falls for manufacturing and industrial production and an unexpected widening of the goods trade deficit. The only glimmers of light were the 0.2% expansion of gross domestic product in November and the NIESR's estimate that GDP grew by 0.3% in the fourth quarter.

Rumbles in Athens

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras faces a vote of confidence because he has agreed to a change of name by Greece's northern neighbour. The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia will henceforth be known as the Republic of North Macedonia and Panos Kammenos, the leader of Mr Tsipras's nationalist coalition partner, is not happy about it.

Greece has long claimed copyright of the name "Macedonia", a situation that has precluded the country from joining NATO and the EU. Less than six months after Greece emerged from eight years of EU bailouts it faces a new round of political unease. On top of the budget in Italy, the riots in France and the slowdown in Germany this latest uncertainty gives investors another reason for uncertainty about the euro.

And they are not overly impressed by the political situation in the United States either. The government shutdown is now into its fourth week with no sign of resolution. The dollar did better than the euro on Friday, losing a cent to sterling as opposed to the euro's cent and a quarter, but both have lost nearly a cent since the turn of the year.

Data in brief

Today's brief ecostat agenda was almost complete by the time of London's opening. China's balance of trade figures were a worry and there is nothing on the list likely to lift investors' spirits.

Chinese imports in December were down by 7.7% from the same month in 2017. Exports were 4.4% lower. The wider trade surplus will not delight the US president but the real concern is the overall downturn in trade, which is partly a function of slower domestic growth and partly of US trade sanctions.

Looking ahead there are inflation data from Sweden and industrial production from the euro zone. New Zealand reports on business confidence tonight.

GBP forges ahead on possible Article 50 postponement

GBP forges ahead on possible Article 50 postponement

EUR unsettled by political spat in Athens

EUR unsettled by political spat in Athens

USD not helped by ongoing government shutdown

USD not helped by ongoing government shutdown

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