Counting the minutes

Still waiting
An American doomsday cult leader, Chris McCann, predicted Armageddon for midnight last night. Those who slept through it didn't miss much: It turned out to be as low-key an affair as the Apocalypse he had foretold for 21 May 2011. Mr McCann now predicts a 28 October Fed rate hike.

At least with this forecast he is not alone, though he is still in the minority. The US dollar is feeling the weight of hope deferred and was the weakest performer over the last seven days, falling by a cent and three quarters against sterling. It did not take last place yesterday though. That dubious honour went to the Swiss franc, which fell by a cent and a half, losing proportionally more than twice as much as the dollar with its two-thirds-of-a-cent decline. 

The market's lack of zest for the franc stemmed largely from an increased appetite for risk among investors. Stock markets around the world were mostly higher, dulling the allure of the safe-havens. The euro fell three quarters of a cent while the Japanese currency escaped with just a half-yen loss as a result of a fairly neutral speech by the Bank of Japan governor following his bank's decision to leave monetary policy unchanged.

Production prods pound
Having been bitten by them so often in the past, investors have learned to be cautious about the UK manufacturing and industrial production data. They were therefore mildly pleased when three of the four measures came in above forecast and the pound came close to winning the day.

The only disappointment was the year-on-year -0.8% fall in manufacturing output and even that was an improvement on the previous month's -1.2% decline. Monthly increases of 0.5% for manufacturing and 1.0% for the more broadly-based industrial output reassured investors that it is not all doom-and-gloom in the industrial sector. Sterling was stronger on the day by an average of 0.4% - two thirds of a US cent - against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies.

It was the Norwegian krone that took the top spot though. Despite a downturn in the oil price it added 0.4% on the day, helped by the market's positive reception of the Norwegian finance minister's budget which was aimed at stimulating growth.

Three minutes
The most eagerly-awaited events on today's agenda will be the minutes of monetary policy meetings at the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve. Investors will be looking for clues to the timing of interest rate increases or, in the case of the ECB, hints at further stimulus.

Most of the European ecostats have already been released and they did not look at all impressive. Swiss unemployment ticked up to 3.4%, its highest level in more than four years. Germany's trade surplus narrowed, with imports down by -3.1% and exports by -5.2%. 

US jobless claims and Canadian housing starts and building permits come out after lunch. Three Fed bosses will be making speeches.