Winning by default

Accidental leaders

Sterling shared top slot with the US dollar, strengthening by an average of 0.4% against the other dozen most actively-traded currencies. The duo won almost by default: there were no significant UK or US economic statistics to carry them ahead.

That is not to say there were no UK ecostats at all. Halifax's index dipped -0.1% in April. The bank observed in its statement that "house prices have stagnated over the past three months" and they were just 3.8% higher on the year. The British Retail Consortium, an industry association, reported a 5.6% annual rise in April sales after a -1% fall the previous month. The shift of Easter from March to April was responsible for what the BRC described as a "brief boost to slowing spending".

There is a suggestion that the US dollar's success was a delayed reaction to Friday's employment figures and to the multitude of Federal Reserve worthies who in recent days have talked up the prospect of more rate increases n the pipeline. Financial futures prices now put an 80% chance on a hike next month and a 60% chance that there will be another one by Christmas. 

Theirs to lose

The failure of the rest of the field to keep up was, in most cases, as accidental as the pound's and the Greenback's success. South Africa's rand went from hero to zero, swapping Monday's pole position for the wooden spoon despite an increase in the country's foreign reserves.

Switzerland's franc was the biggest loser among the majors, falling by a cent against sterling and half a cent against the euro. The angle there was apparently that investors were selling back the purchases they had made as a precaution against a Le Pen victory in the French presidential election. 

It could be argued that the Aussie was the architect of its own one-cent decline overnight, which was triggered by an unexpected -0.1% fall in retail sales. However, the movable feast of Easter will have affected sales in Australia just as it did in Europe and North America so the -0.6% punishment looks unreasonably harsh.

Australian budget

Among the sprinkling of ho-hum economic statistics and central banker appearances the only item on the agenda that really stands out is the Australian budget, which Treasurer Scott Morrison will present at about 10:30 BST. It will be important to the sustainability of Australia's AAA credit rating.

Although one school of thought has it that losing the triple-A ratings is more a matter of when than if, the agencies have publicly taken the line that their decisions will depend on the government's willingness to cut spending. Today's budget is expected to address that situation.

On today's ecostat list there are unemployment numbers from Switzerland and South Africa, industrial production and balance of trade figures from Germany and building permits from Canada. Tonight brings a brace of consumer and business confidence readings from Australia and the consumer price index data from China.