Still no wiser

A definite maybe
In her eagerly-awaited speech at the Kansas Fed's Jackson Hole Symposium Federal Reserve chairperson Janet Yellen said "the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months". Wow.

It came as no real surprise that Ms Yellen refrained from committing to a rate increase this year, nor that she left the door open to higher rates this year. Investors did not know quite what to make of her comments. In one way they supported the expectation of a hike next month; in another they allowed for the possibility of no move before Christmas.

There was less ambiguity from Stanley Fischer, the Fed vice chairman, who appeared on TV shortly after Ms Yellen had spoken. Asked whether investors should be ready for a September increase and, maybe, another in November or December Mr Fischer said "Yes to both questions". There, at last, was something for investors to grasp and they responded by sending the dollar higher. By the end of Friday it was a cent higher against the euro and the pound.

Assured uncertainty
So obsessed were investors with Ms Yellen's speech that they could not have cared less about the day's other events and data. Between Friday evening and this morning they have been doing their utmost to figure out when US interest rates will move and they have still come to no conclusion.

After Mr Fischer's remarks, pricing in the financial futures market increased the chance of a September increase from 33% to 42% and the probability of one by December went up from 68% to 76%. Over the long weekend those numbers fell to 35% and 72%. If the Fed was aiming to steel the market for one or two rate hikes this year it did not make a very good job of it.

Having initially lost ground after Mr Fischer's appearance the commodity-related and emerging market currencies recovered, such that the Australian dollar was the top performer on Monday. The NZ dollar and the Japanese yen did better than the US dollar too. The clear loser was the South African rand, which continues to suffer from the clouds surrounding finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

No respite
There are plenty of ecostats on today's list but none is of particularly high status.  For sterling it will be the Bank of England's mortgage approvals figure that matters most. For the US dollar it will be consumer confidence and house prices.

Data released in the last 24 hours indicated continued shrinkage of Greece's economy; it contracted by -0.2% in the second quarter. Japanese retail sales increased by 1.4% in July but were still down by -0.2% on the year. Australian building permits rebounded by 11.3% in July after a rotten performance in June.

There are also figures for German inflation and Canadian producer prices today and UK consumer confidence comes out at midnight. Not much to work with there, then, so US rates will remain in focus.