"There were some people on a train. 19 people get off at the first stop. 17 people get on the train. Now there are 63 people on the train. How many people were on the train to begin with?" The Twitterati struggled to answer. But they did sell the rand.
Well, somebody did. Having been the strongest performer on Friday the South African rand was at the back of the field yesterday. This is perplexing, given that Moody's left its credit rating for the country unchanged at the end of last week when many analysts had expected a downgrade. Monday's loss nullified Friday's gain almost to the nanocent. It looks as though they are pushing the rand around because they can.
Rather easier to fathom was the loss sustained by the second worst overnight performer, the NZ dollar. It dropped a cent early this morning after Finance Minister Bill English hinted that he would not object if the Reserve Bank of New Zealand were to tighten the loan-to-value ratio on mortgage lending. Putting two and two together to make five, investors inferred that such a move would enable the RBNZ to make further cuts to interest rates.
There was no clear theme to Monday's exchange rate movements. The "safe" Japanese yen suffered to the same extent as the "risky" Kiwi, both currencies falling by about 1.1%. Equities were mostly higher while hard commodities were softer. Oil started firm but faded as the wildfire in Fort McMurray's shalefields subsided.
The commodity currencies were all over the place: While the Kiwi and the rand took a beating the Loonie and the Norwegian krone were just about steady against sterling. Australia's dollar was somewhere in the middle, losing three quarters of a cent. The US dollar led the way with a half-cent gain, leaving the euro and the franc just about unchanged against the pound.
No economic data of any consequence came out during the London session. Swiss deflation slowed from -0.9% to -0.4%, Euroland investor confidence firmed from 5.7 to 6.2 and Canadian housing starts fell -5.4%. The Halifax house price index was down by -0.8% in April and the BRC Retail Sales Monitor showed a second month of slippage.
More of the same
The only vaguely-interesting ecostats on today's list are already out. Chinese inflation was steady at 2.3% and the -3.4% annual decline in producer prices was smaller than expected. Swiss unemployment ticked up to 3.5%. German industrial production was down by a monthly -1.3% while the country's trade surplus widened.
With that lot out of the way investors will have to make what they can of the remnants. Norwegian inflation might affect the krone and South African unemployment could impact the rand but Greek inflation and industrial production will probably leave the euro unmoved.
Although investors don't normally care about Britain's trade deficit that might not be the case today: The EU referendum debate makes it a little more relevant.