Prepping

SNB or not SNB?
The media did their best to whip up enthusiasm for the spending frenzy that traditionally follows America's thanksgiving holiday. Yet, on Black Friday, the shops' extra security guards were underemployed. People are no longer prepared to fight one another for "flat-screen" TVs. Nor are they so desperate for Swiss francs.

Over the last four years the Swiss franc has surprised markets more than twice; once in September 2011, when the Swiss National Bank swore to defend a floor of SFr1.20 per €1, and then in January this year, when the SNB was forced to abandon that promise as the European Central Bank prepared to launch its asset purchase programme. The Swissy surprised again last Friday when it lurched lower against the euro and the dollar.

Friday's move was much smaller in scale than the previous two but, in the absence of any better evidence, it was seen as the result of yet more intervention by the SNB. The interpretation is that the central bank could be getting ready to match the ECB blow for blow if, as expected, Mario Draghi and his team announce extra stimulus on Thursday. 

Sterling steady
One reason for the market's suspicion of SNB involvement was the price action on Friday, which saw the franc weakening and the US dollar strengthening while the others hardly budged. Sterling was on average unchanged against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies.

At the front of the pack the US dollar strengthened by two thirds of a cent against sterling. The franc brought up the rear with a half-cent decline. Give or take 20 ticks the euro, the pound and the Canadian, Australian and NZ dollars were steady against one another.

There were no hugely-important economic statistics. Swedish and Norwegian retail sales looked respectable enough in October. The first revision to third quarter economic growth in Britain left it unchanged at 0.5% while business investment grew by more than expected in Q3. Consumer confidence in the euro zone was less negative at -5.9 while business confidence diverged: the services sector felt better about things and in industry the mood worsened.


Girding the loins
This week's agenda contains some unusually significant events and data. There are interest rate decisions from Australia, Canada and, of course Euroland. There are purchasing managers' index readings from around the world. There are employment data from North America. There is an OPEC meeting.

Not all of these will affect the price of cod but it would be extraordinary if none were to do so. The biggest ones come at the end of the week. On Thursday the ECB policy announcement will be followed by an appearance by the Federal Reserve chairperson; Friday brings the OPEC meeting and the US employment report.

Today's ecostats look comparatively mundane. From Europe come UK money supply and mortgage approvals, along with inflation figures from Italy and Germany. US pending home sales come out after lunch. Australia gets the PMI ball rolling tonight.