Diversions

Capricious rand

For the last eight (working) days the South African rand has been on a roller-coaster. On five of those days it was at the front of the pack and on the other three it bought up the rear. Yesterday, for what it's worth, it was the leader.

A piece in the weekend Financial Times summed up the situation succinctly: "South Africa's rand poses big problems for currency traders. If you are an investor wanting a safe, unexciting asset to make a bit of money, avoid South Africa's rand. It is not that you cannot make money trading the currency. You very much can, and you might make it big and quickly. The problem is you can also lose much more than you gain and at a frightening pace."

At a practical level the difficulty is to reconcile the various impacts of commodity and energy prices, risk appetite, South Africa's economy and Pretorian politics. On Monday commodity prices were higher so up went the currency by 1.3% against sterling. Due to the volatility anyone with Rand to buy or sell may want to discuss the requirement with an account manager in advance.  

Presidents' day

Among the major currencies not a great deal was going on. The euro and its constant companion, the Swiss franc, were about two thirds of a cent firmer. The yen was down by couple of dozen ticks and sterling was unchanged against the US dollar. Investors' attention was mainly on presidents.

In Europe the new French president made his first trip abroad, visiting Germany's chancellor in Berlin. Their apparent agreement to push for closer integration of the euro zone was positive for the single currency. America's newish president has yet to make his first overseas trip but his Russian connections were in the news again, this time in relation to an accusation in the Washington Post that he had leaked classified information. 

Investors worry that Mr Trump is being distracted by the various controversies which, they believe, are making it more difficult for him to carry through his economic objectives.  The dollar bounce that followed his election has been eroded, leaving the Greenback with just a half-cent gain against the euro and a five-cent loss to sterling since voting day.

Inflation and growth

Today's scheduled ecostat excitement all takes place before lunch. First, at half past nine, come the UK inflation data, all 12 of them. Half an hour later there are provisional figures for Euroland gross domestic product in the first quarter.

Headline consumer price index inflation in Britain is forecast to be 2.6%, at which level it would have overtaken wage growth. A higher number is not necessarily positive for sterling.

Euroland's economy probably grew by 0.5% in Q1, beating Britain's 0.3% and the United States' 0.2%. A higher number would be likely to be positive for the euro.