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Led by the Noes

No cunning plan from parliament

Astonishingly, sterling is an average of 0.2% firmer on the day. The prime minister promised to resign in order to persuade her own party to approve her own legislation. A series of indicative votes confirmed what parliament doesn't want, rather than what it does. And the pound is higher. It's a funny old world.

Sterling is just about flat on the day against the US dollar, the euro and the Swiss franc. The Japanese yen leads the way, up 0.4%, and the volatile South African rand is down by 1.1% at the back of the field. Norway's krone is down by 0.8%, hampered by a 1.4% fall in oil prices which, strangely, did not affect the Canadian dollar.

Whilst even the proponent of last night's unprecedented session in the House of Commons did not expect a definitive result, the outcome was disappointing to investors who had hoped that something - anything - would emerge as parliament's favoured course of action. Instead, the Noes 8 - 0 Ayes whitewash could not even rule out a revocation of Article 50 in preference to a no-deal Brexit. To boot, the speaker reiterated his ruling that the government could not bring back the prime minister's bill - MV3 in the vernacular - if it remains substantially the same. And yet, it might do so anyway if the house is willing.

Further ECB delay possible

Policy indecision was not unique to Britain's parliament on Wednesday. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, told an audience in Frankfurt that higher interest rates could be delayed until next year.

The ECB has already modified its guidance to indicate that low rates will continue "at least through the end of 2019". It now seems likely that the next official word on the matter will replace "the end of 2019" with "the spring of 2020".

As is currently the vogue, Wednesday's economic statistics played only a modest part in the evolution of exchange rates. The CBI's Distributive Trades survey came in at -18%, marking a fourth consecutive month of annual decline for retail sales. The trade deficits of the United States and Canada were both narrower on the month. Business confidence softened in New Zealand.

US growth

In the coming two days the highest-billed statistics will be America's revised gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2018 and German and Japanese inflation. None of these are likely to affect interest rate expectations or exchange rates. So, once again, for investors it will all be about Brexit.

On today's list are the EC's measures of consumer and business confidence and US GDP. UK consumer confidence comes tonight, alongside Tokyo inflation and Japanese retail sales. The revision to Britain's GDP in Q4 appears tomorrow, as well as US consumer confidence and new home sales.

The big question is whether or not Theresa May will have another go at getting her EU withdrawal bill through the House of Commons. It could happen tomorrow.

GBP: Survives indecisive Commons votes

GBP: Survives indecisive Commons votes

USD: Smaller trade deficit has no impact

USD: Smaller trade deficit has no impact

NOK: Weakest among the first division currencies

NOK: Weakest among the first division currencies

CAD: Unaffected by lower oil prices

CAD: Unaffected by lower oil prices

JPY: Ahead but not by much

JPY: Ahead but not by much

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