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Looking for direction

No change since Thursday

With tragedies in both Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, the weekend headlines were not the most uplifting ever. But with parliament on holiday there was at least a break of a few days from the endless monotony of Brexit contention. Over four of the five days the major currencies went nowhere.

With many financial centres closed on Friday and Monday the Thursday-to-Tuesday outcome was decided on Thursday. The US and Canadian dollars, the Japanese yen and the Norwegian krone were the top performers, strengthening by 0.4% against sterling. The losers, down by around 0.25% each, were the Swiss franc, the antipodean dollars and the Swedish krona. Sterling is unchanged against the euro.

The Ukrainian Hryvnia strengthened by 0.1% on Monday following confirmation that Volodymyr Zelensky had won a run-off vote against incumbent Petro Porochenko by 73% to 24%. Its gains were tempered by investors' awareness of what can happen when a populist TV entertainer with no previous political experience becomes president.

Retail sales up

Retail sales data on Thursday from Britain, Canada and the United States all came in ahead of forecast. The provisional purchasing managers' index from Europe and the States were less impressive.

UK retail sales increased by 1.1% in March, trouncing analysts' forecast that they would have fallen 0.3%. Sales were up by 6.7% compared with March last year. The numbers were positive for sterling at the time but the effect soon wore off. US retail sales rose by 1.6% in the same month, beating the expected 0.9% increase. A month behind, Canadian data showed retail sales rising 0.8% in February, twice as much as forecast.

Germany's provisional manufacturing purchasing managers' index once again delivered disenchantment. At 44.5 it was admittedly better than March's finalised 44.1 but investors had been looking for 45.0 so the result was seen as a miss. The euro lost a quarter of a cent on the news. All three pan-Euroland PMIs fell short of forecast.

Australian inflation

The ecostat week gets off to a slow start today, following a trickle of data over the weekend from the States and Japan. Tonight's inflation figures from Australia are likely to attract the most attention.

Friday's Japanese consumer price index data were in line with forecast, with the headline rate of inflation up from 0.2% to 0.5%. US housing starts and building permits were both unexpectedly lower on the month in March, as were existing home sales.

There are no data from Europe this morning. The EC's consumer confidence measure comes after lunch. Canada reports on February's wholesale sales. Numbers from the US cover retail sales (the Redbook index), new home sales and the Richmond Fed's manufacturing index. In the light of recent twitchiness concerning the Reserve Bank of Australia's monetary policy, the Australian consumer price index data could make a difference. Headline inflation is forecast to have slowed from 1.8% to 1.5% in the first quarter, with the RBA trimmed mean down from 1.8% to 1.7%.

GBP: Unchanged on average following good retail sales

GBP: Unchanged on average following good retail sales

EUR: Unchanged despite another weak German PMI

EUR: Unchanged despite another weak German PMI

UAH: Cautiously higher after Zelensky win

UAH: Cautiously higher after Zelensky win

USD and CAD: helped by retail sales strength

USD and CAD: helped by retail sales strength

AUD: Crossing its fingers for tonight's inflation data

AUD: Crossing its fingers for tonight's inflation data

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