In December, China bought $299 million of soybeans from the States. In January, it bought four times as much. That accounted for a big chunk of a narrowing of America's trade deficit with the world's second biggest economy. There was also a slowdown in US purchases of Chinese goods after importers had rushed to fill their boots last year in anticipation of possible tariff increases. The overall US deficit was down by almost 15% at $51.1 billion, significantly less than the forecast $57 billion shortfall.
Although investors do not usually pay overmuch attention to US trade figures they appear to have done so yesterday. The USD moved higher against its benchmark, the EUR, following the news.
There were plenty of Euroland statistics this morning but they were not of sufficient stature to do anything to the EUR. Spanish inflation accelerated to 1.3% as prices rose by 0.4% in March. Euro zone money supply M3 grew by 4.3% in the year to February and loans to the private sector increased by 3.3% as expected. The European Commission's five measures of consumer and business confidence were all lower in March. Only one of them, consumer confidence at -7.2, matched up to analysts' forecasts.
The euro is down by 0.2% on the day against the USD. Its decline had little to do with the economic data though: most of it happened during the New York morning following the US trade data.
For the first time this week investors had some Canadian ecostats to look at. They were not of any help to the CAD though. Analysts had predicted that Canada's trade deficit would shrink to $3.5 billion in January after a record $4.8 billion gap in December. They were wrong, it narrowed to $4.35 billion, the second biggest shortfall ever. Statistics Canada put a positive spin on it, noting the "first increase in exports since July 2018" but investors were not convinced.
A tiny 0.6% fall in the price of WTI crude did not matter much to the CAD. The Loonie is down by 0.3% against the USD.
All was quiet this morning on the UK statistics front. Sterling's 0.5% decline against the USD is the result of Brexit uncertainty generated by yesterday's votes in the House of Commons.
A series of eight ballots were held simultaneously in the hope that they would shed light on the type of Brexit arrangement most likely to win the support of the whole house. None of them commanded a majority: Once again parliament found it easier to say what it didn't want than what it did. However, the number of votes cast for and against each proposal offered some hope. The two most unpopular ideas related to leaving the EU without an agreement while the two winning most support were for Britain to remain in the EU customs union and a second referendum. The sense in Westminster is that the idea of another referendum is gaining traction.
The yen is a scant 0.1% higher against the USD, in other words just about unchanged. It was unaffected by data showing an increase in Japanese investments abroad and a fall in foreign investments in Japan.
The JPY did strengthen, however, following the announcement of a "record-breaking" fiscal budget "that includes 2.03 trillion yen ($18.4 billion) in measures aimed at softening the impact of a looming consumption tax hike".