Brexit optimism swings it for sterling

3 minute read


Existing home sales increased by a monthly 11.8% in February, more than making up for the previous month's downwardly-revised 1.4% decline. However, the resale of a house has much less economic impact that the construction and sale of a new one. So investors were more interested in the provisional purchasing managers' index readings which had come up 15 minutes earlier.

The preliminary manufacturing PMI came in at 52.5, half a point lower on the month and a point below forecast. The services PMI scored a 54.8, missing the mark by more than a point. They were better numbers than those from Europe but they contributed to a growing nervousness about the economy. The USD did not have a bad day, mostly because most of the others had a worse one.


After its spectacular tumble following the German manufacturing PMI the euro did not have too bad a day either. It strengthened by 0.1% against the USD. The day's most notable feature was the 10-year German bond, which traded on a negative yield. In other words, investors were ready to pay the German government to borrow their money.

This morning's data were a factor in the EUR's survival. IFO's survey found German corporate leaders more confident in all three of its measures - expectations, current assessment and business climate. They were all higher on the month and all beat forecast.


Canada was an unusually fertile source of economic data on Friday. Unfortunately for the Loonie, some of the numbers were not as helpful as they might have been. The biggest disappointment was retail sales. The expected 0.4% rebound in January did not happen: sales were down by 0.3% on the month, matching December's downwardly-revised achievement.  

Above-forecast inflation made up for some of the disappointment. The headline rate ticked up to 1.5% and the Bank of Canada's "core" measure was steady at 1.5%. The overall effect was still negative for the CAD though. It lost 0.2% to the USD.


It was a funny old day for sterling. Having been under pressure in the early London session it rediscovered its mojo and pushed higher during the morning in New York. It was Friday's top performer, adding 0.6% against the USD.

There were no UK statistics and no concrete news to justify the pound's success. It was all down to sentiment regarding Brexit. Investors somehow got the impression that parliament would do its job this week and that everything would be alright on the night. That confidence will have been reinforced by the 5.4 million signatures on a petition to revoke Article 50 and scrap the whole thing and the million people who marched through London on Sunday in favour of a second referendum.  


The yen did what it does best, serving as a bunker for nervous investors.  Their uneasiness was fed on Friday by the weak German data and an inversion of the US yield curve, in which 10-year bonds traded on a lower yield than three-month bills. An inverted yield curve is seen by many - though by no means all - as a sign of imminent recession.

There were no Japanese data of any consequence overnight but the risk-off sentiment swing was enough for the JPY. It is 0.3% higher against the USD.

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