Anything can happen in the next six days

Pound plods

Sterling did well at the end of last week. Since Friday its performance has been less sparkling. Having led the field on Wednesday and Thursday the pound came off the boil after Britain's prime minister began dining with EU leaders and evidence emerged of slower growth in the first quarter.

Gross domestic product expanded by a provisional 0.3% in Q1, falling short of the forecast 0.4% growth and a far cry from the 0.7% achieved in the last quarter of 2016. Investors were unimpressed. Add to that the -0.4% monthly decline in house prices reported by Nationwide and alleged disagreements between Theresa May and her high-level EU dinner guests and the pound arguably got off lightly with a -0.2% average fall over the long weekend.

Over the four days sterling lost three quarters of euro cent, two Australian cents and one and a half NZ cents. It was unchanged against the Swiss franc and the North American dollars. Japan's yen brought up the rear, hurt by the lack of demand for safe-havens and by the Bank of Japan's apparent determination to keep interest rates at minus zero until the end of time.

Don of the hundred days

Investors celebrated the landmark of Donald Trump's hundredth day in office by leaving the dollar pretty much alone. Any enthusiasm they might have shown for the success of the president's policies was neutralised by disappointing US economic data.

Thursday's durable goods orders data showed an increase of 0.7% in March, which turned into a -0.2% decline once "transportation" items (trains and boats and planes) were removed from the equation. Analysts had been looking for increases of 1.2% and 0.4%. 

Friday's preliminary GDP figures put the first quarter economic expansion at an annualised 0.7%, equivalent to quarter-on-quarter growth of 0.2%. The long weekend cost the US dollar half a cent against the euro.

Seatbelts on

Monday's bank holiday will be a fond but distant memory by this time next week. An action-packed agenda incorporates central bank decisions, important economic data, elections in Britain and France and, of course, the Brexit negotiations. To paraphrase the old Stingray tag: Anything can happen in the next six days.

Labour day has spoiled the usual symmetry of purchasing managers' index results. Instead of all appearing together the manufacturing PMIs for Australia, Japan and the States came out ahead of the others. Australia looked alright at 59.2 and Japan's 52.7 was so-so, but America's 54.8 was a couple of points short of target.  Analysts are looking for a 54.0 reading from the UK: At that level it would be potentially the lowest in Europe.

Employment is the other major topic today. There are unemployment figures this morning from Italy and the euro zone and a clutch of jobs data tonight from New Zealand. Euroland unemployment is expected to have ticked down to 9.4% in April while a figure of 5.2% is pencilled in for New Zealand.