Another Brexit blow for sterling


Tuesday was not helpful to the USD. It put in a less than average performance, losing a little ground overall to the other major currencies. Investors were at least a little wary of the dollar after the US inflation data failed to match expectations.

Analysts had predicted that headline and "core" inflation - excluding food and energy prices - would hold steady at 1.6% and 2.2% respectively. Both came in a tick lower at 1.5% and 2.1%. The differences were not great but they were on the wrong side of par. However "patient" the Fed was already inclined to be, the lower numbers would presumably make it more reluctant to rush into a rate increase.


This morning's euro zone data were more helpful to the EUR than yesterday's US figure had been to the USD. They were not important numbers, in the great scheme of things, but they at least measured up to analysts' forecasts. Spanish inflation was steady at 1.1% (both the basic CPI and the harmonised Euroland measure). Euro zone industrial production increased by a monthly 1.4% and declined by 1.1% from the same month last year, a better result that the forecast +1.0% and -2.1%.

Confusion about the Brexit situation in London somewhat muddies the waters but the EUR fared better than most of its peers. It strengthened by a net 0.2% against the USD.


With oil prices literally unchanged on the day (WTI crude was flat at $57.33) the Loonie had no impetus from an export perspective. Nor was there any new good news regarding the Sino-US trade dispute.

Lower-than-expected US inflation and renewed anguish about the Brexit situation in Britain combined to reverse the previous day's overall global optimism. The safe-haven CHF was the day's leader while the allegedly more risky commodity currencies failed to keep up. The CAD nevertheless did better than the inflation-hobbled USD, adding 0.3% against the US currency.


Bottom on Friday, top on Monday and bottom again on Tuesday. It has been an erratic few days for the Great British pound. The GBP's loss to the USD yesterday was 0.5%. That result had nothing to do with the UK economic data, which were mostly better than forecast but were overshadowed by the evolving political narrative.

It was the Big Brexit Bungle that dealt the GBP another blow. There had been hope - that assurances about the backstop would allow the House of Commons to support the government in yesterday's vote. It did not. The defeat was less stark than the one two months ago but was still crushing. There will be another vote today, this time with the aim of preventing a no-deal Brexit, but it will be the amendments - not yet announced - that carry the most important message to investors.  


On Monday a general optimism had left the safe-haven currencies on the shelf. Yesterday an increased nervousness - not least about Brexit - regenerated some appetite, especially for the CHF. But it did not do a great deal for the JPY, which added a scant 0.1% against the USD.

The Japanese data were of little use. Corporate inflation accelerated from 0.6% to 0.8% in the year to February, with prices up by a monthly 0.2%. Machinery orders fell 5.4% in January, leaving them 2.9% lower on the year.  

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