Daily Brief

Daily Brief

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A win for the government

Sterling comfortable

The pound scooped the pool for the second time this week, adding an average of 0.5% against the other major currencies. Had the government lost the motion of no confidence yesterday evening it would have been a very different story but turkeys tend not to vote for Christmas.

There was little drama in the FX market and no particular reaction to the result of the confidence vote. The prime minister had been expected to win the day and she did so by the expected margin. The de facto Brexiteer-in-chief, Jacob Rees-Mogg told a TV interviewer that he would never vote to "put a Marxist in Downing Street". 

Following the vote Theresa May called upon MPs to "put self-interest aside" and invited Britain's political leaders to join together in achieving a consensus on how to proceed. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declined, refusing to join discussions unless the prime minister rules out a no-deal Brexit. Some of the media criticised Mr Corbyn for his stance but investors gratefully welcomed another opponent of no deal.

Inflation and the bank

During the big build-up to the no confidence vote, investors could be forgiven for paying scant attention to the UK inflation data and Bank of England governor Mark Carney's appearance at Parliament's Treasury Committee. Both passed off fairly peacefully.

The headline rate of UK inflation was in line with expectations, down from 2.3% to 2.1% in December. Manufacturers' costs were up by 3.7% on the year while factory gate prices rose by 2.5%. The retail price index, which still governs many wages and pensions, went up by 2.7% in 2018.

Mark Carney was in Westminster, talking to the Treasury Committee about the bank's Financial Stability Report. He made the point that sterling's rebound following the government defeat on Tuesday evening was due in large part to expectations that there would be a delay to Brexit beyond 29 March and that it would not be disorderly. For the avoidance of doubt, he spelled out to the committee that "the markets, like the country, are looking to Parliament for direction, and one could expect continued volatility". 

The other numbers

House builders in the United States were a little more upbeat in January; the NAHB index was two points higher at 58. Estate agents in Britain were vaguely depressed, with "uncertainty still biting" into a "weak" housing market as the RICS house price balance continued its decline to -19%.

The US Federal Reserve's Beige Book survey of economic activity found "eight of twelve Federal Reserve Districts reporting modest to moderate growth". The news was helpful to the US dollar, which was only narrowly behind sterling on the day. Mortgage loans continued to decline in Australia, falling by 0.9% in November with lending down by 4.5% on the month. The Aussie is a cent and a third lower on the day.

Today's agenda is somewhat brief. Euroland will release the finalised CPI figures, expected to leave the headline rate of inflation unchanged at 1.6%. The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index is forecast, perhaps optimistically, to improve by a point to 10.0. Tonight brings NZ business confidence, Australian new home sales and the Japanese inflation data. Mercifully, no momentous votes are scheduled in the Palace of Westminster.

GBP leads after confidence vote

GBP leads after confidence vote

AUD lower as mortgage lending declines again

AUD lower as mortgage lending declines again

USD narrowly beaten by sterling

USD narrowly beaten by sterling

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