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May goes for fourth time lucky

The pain goes on

Sterling is unchanged on the day against the euro and half a yen stronger. For a second consecutive day it was not the weakest among the major currencies, though it was 0.1% lower on average. In the world of Brexit that's pretty good going for the pound.

There were moments yesterday when investors became quite positive about sterling. They thought it is possible that the prime minister would announce something different and wonderful in her "new bold offer" to parliament.  The pound peaked at quarter to four on a story that Theresa May was about to offer a second referendum as part of her package. It turned out that she wasn't. 

If parliament were to approve her latest withdrawal bill Ms May would allow the House to decide whether or not to hold a referendum on it. The two issues would be separate and conditional. Investors concurred with the media that the package is a non-starter, and they promptly sent sterling back down. Boris Johnson waits in the wings and, with him, the renewed prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Not much else

Away from Westminster there was not much else for investors to pitch at.  The CBI's Industrial Trends Survey helped cement the notion of a Brexit-bound UK manufacturing sector. Corporate America continued to rail about the president's trade war. Economic data were insufficient to set any new tone.

Within the CBI's report was an observation that "Total orders reached their lowest balance since October 2016, while export orders worsened to a balance not seen since July 2016". The overall index was five points lower on the month at -10. New Zealand's dollar peaked briefly before being sent lower by a 1.2% fall in the fortnightly GDT index of milk prices, the first decline this year. Together with the Aussie, the Kiwi is just about unchanged on the day against sterling, the overnight retail sales data having minimal effect.

Euro zone ecostats went no further than an improvement in consumer confidence. US data showed continued growth in retail sales, with the Redbook index up by 5.2% on the year, and a continued softening of demand for second-hand houses as existing home sales fell by a monthly 0.4%.  

UK inflation

For sterling the main scheduled event today is the dozen or so inflation measures at half past nine. For the US dollar it will be the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. For the euro it might be a speech by the European Central Bank president.

The UK consumer price index is forecast to have risen 0.7% in April, taking headline inflation a tick higher to 1.9%. The number will have no immediate implications for monetary policy. It could have an impact on sentiment, if only out of habit. Inflation in South Africa is expected to be steady at 4.5% and that statistic will almost certainly affect the rand.

After lunch Canada chips in with retail sales for March. A 1.0% monthly increase is predicted. With the FOMC minutes investors will be hoping for hints about what comes next. The obvious thing to look for is confirmation of what Fed leaders have been saying lately - that the next move for interest rates could be either up or down.

GBP: Uninspired by new bold offer

GBP: Uninspired by new bold offer

USD: Unchanged ahead of FOMC minutes

USD: Unchanged ahead of FOMC minutes

NZD: Unmoved by retail sales data

NZD: Unmoved by retail sales data

EUR: Unexcited by improved consumer confidence

EUR: Unexcited by improved consumer confidence

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