Sterling banks its gains


After Tuesday's feeding frenzy there was a lot of sitting back and taking stock going on yesterday. The pound was unchanged, on average, against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies. Just 1% separated the leading South African rand and the lagging Norwegian krone.

The rand edged ahead after South African data showed inflation slowing from 6.3% to 6.1%. It strengthened by 0.4% against sterling. At the back of the field the krone was down by -0.6%, the victim of a -4% fall in oil prices. The Canadian dollar was not far ahead of it, losing three quarters of a cent for the same reason. The euro, the Swiss franc and the Swedish krona shared second place, adding a quarter of a euro cent or equivalent. 

Sterling showed an early inclination to fade but, perhaps surprisingly, investors made no serious attempt to correct Tuesday's rise. The implication is that they continue to believe that a reinforced parliamentary majority will allow the prime minister to secure a more beneficial (or at least a less disadvantageous) Brexit deal.


An unexpectedly imminent UK election and a surprisingly strong sterling served to distract investors from their usual focus on politics and statistics. Not that there was much to say about either: the French election race is still a close one and the ecostats were mostly uncontroversial.

The one that wasn't was the NZ consumer price index. Prices rose by 1.0% in the first quarter, lifting the headline rate of inflation from 1.3% to 2.2%. It was a bigger number than investors had expected and was worth an immediate cent to the Kiwi. Later erosion cost it half that gain and the NZ dollar was eventually just a dozen ticks ahead on the day.

Euro zone inflation came in at 1.5%, unchanged on the month and exactly in line with the provisional figure. Euroland's trade surplus widened to a seasonally-adjusted €19.2bn and Japan's shrunk to ¥172bn: both figures were better than forecast. The US Federal Reserve's Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions (commonly known as the Beige Book, because it is) was a little more upbeat than the recent data might have suggested.

Coming up

Ecostats are few today but will be picking up the pace on Friday. The day's highlights are likely to be speeches by Bank of England governor Mark Carney and US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.

The two gentlemen will be addressing an Institute of International Finance gathering this evening and attending the G20/IMF finance ministers and central bank governors' meeting tomorrow.  

Friday's most important economic statistics will be the provisional purchasing managers' index readings and the US retail sales figures for March. Sales are forecast to have fallen slightly on the month, principally because the Easter holiday was moved from March to April this year. Canadian inflation data, which appear after lunch tomorrow, are expected to show prices rising by 1.8% a year, a slightly slower pace than the 2.0% reported previously.