Watch out for Mark

Pound hit by apathy
It took Erno Rubik, the inventor of the eponymous cube, more than a month to solve his own puzzle in 1974. Last weekend that time was cut to a world record low of 4.90 seconds. If it's that easy it's hardly worth bothering with. A bit like buying sterling.

It was easy enough to buy British pounds on Monday because so many investors were selling them. There was no particular urgency to the sell-off, and no obvious reason for it. Sterling was not even the day's worst performer: that honour fell to the South African rand after three days at the head of the field. But it fell by an average of -0.4% against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies.

The sensation was that it was almost a boredom trade. Over the previous week and a half the pound had done fairly well and investors were on the lookout for something else to chase. They found it in the Japanese yen, which strengthened by 0.7%. The US dollar also suffered from the ennui, losing half a yen and falling by a dozen or so ticks against the euro. 

Euroland PMIs impress
The French services sector purchasing managers' index reading was no great shakes but the remainder of the provisional Euroland figures - including the services sector number from France - beat expectations. They didn't do much for the euro though.

Germany's services sector put in the best showing at 55.6, its highest level in more than a year. The pan-Euroland readings were also the most positive for a while, with manufacturing at an 18-month high and the services sector figure coming in at its strongest level since June 2011. However, the same couldn't-care-less attitude that afflicted the pound and the dollar left the euro unmoved. Presumably, investors assumed the better data would make no difference to next week's European Central Bank decision on stimulus.

Equally, a below-forecast US manufacturing PMI and a -3.4% fall in existing home sales did no palpable damage to the dollar. Investors are convinced that US interest rates will go up next month, come what may.

Carney alert
The Bank of England governor and three of his henchpeople will be visiting Westminster this morning to answer questions from the Treasury Committee about the bank's Inflation Report. An hour ahead of that, the Reserve Bank of Australia governor will also be making a speech.

Both Mark Carney and Glenn Stevens will have the opportunity to shape interest rate expectations. Mr Carney can hardly avoid giving his opinion on when the first increase might come and Mr Stevens's speech is entitled "The Long Run" (in which, according to John Maynard Keynes, we are all dead).

There are revised third quarter gross domestic product data from Germany, South Africa and the United States, as well as US figures for house prices and consumer confidence. The only UK ecostat is the CBI's distributive trades survey of November's retail sales.