Another blow

The gift that keeps on taking

Marks and Spencer's decision to stop playing music in its stores is intended to boost business. It should: customers will appreciate not being bombarded with Little Drummer Boy and Frosty the Snowman, 24/7, from Michaelmas to New Year. If only they could do the same for the referendum stuff.

Sterling, for one, would be grateful if it didn't have to endure the non-stop assault of propagandists and pollsters for another three weeks. But it inevitably will. And the less likely it becomes that Britain will Remain, the more likely investors will be to stay away from the pound, not because they carry any torch for the EU but because they hate uncertainty. Tuesday afternoon's opinion poll in The Guardian, which put the Leavers 52-48 ahead, hurt sterling at the time and it continued to weigh on the pound yesterday.

Sterling narrowly avoided coming in last, falling by an average of -0.8% against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies. Its losses included half a US cent, one and a half euro and Swiss cents and two and a half yen. The pound's decline came despite an unexpected improvement in the manufacturing sector purchasing managers' index from 49.2 to 50.1.

Hero to zero

It was the Australian dollar that sheltered sterling from a second day with the wooden spoon. Having been among the leaders on Tuesday, thanks to first quarter growth data that were slightly ahead of forecast, it dipped this morning after Australian retail sales figures for April were weaker than expected.

It was not a big miss: sales were up by 0.2% on the month instead of the forecast 0.3%. However, the Aussie has been out of favour with investors since the middle of April and they are readier to pick fault than they are to reward success. It lost a third of a cent to sterling, though it is still ahead by four and a half cents on the week.

The round of manufacturing PMIs passed by without incident. Euroland's reading was on target at 51.5 while the two US measures came in at 51.3 and 50.7. None of the figures was far enough above the 50 breakeven level to alleviate concerns about weak global growth and the safe-haven Japanese yen was once again at the front of the field.

New Fiver

At two this afternoon Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will introduce the bank's new five-pound note, which bears an image of Winston Churchill. There is unlikely to be anything in his speech about Brexit but reporters will doubtless press him with questions.

When Dr Carney stands up his opposite number at the European Central Bank will already be half way through his press conference in Vienna. No change is expected to monetary policy but there could be that rarest of events - an upgrade in the economic outlook for Euroland.

Another central banker will be speaking at the same time: the Federal Reserve's Jerome Powell.