Phil's red box

A calm sea

Investors who took the day off on Tuesday didn't miss much. The highlight, if it can be described as such, was the way Monday's loser and one of its winners swapped ends: the Norwegian krone advanced to the front and the South African rand fell to the back.

There was a 1.2% gap between the rand and the krone and 0.7% or less separated the other major currencies. Except for a dozen or so ticks the pound was unchanged against the euro, the Swiss franc and the Australian dollar. The US dollar was ahead by a third of a cent, 0.3%. At the beginning of the day it did look as though sterling might be in for another shellacking but investors could come up with no excuse to sustain the assault.

The Halifax house price index was the only UK economic statistic. It went up by 0.1% in February, leaving the average house price 5.1% higher on the year. The Halifax noted in its report that "The annual rate  of  house  price  growth  has… nearly halved over the past 11 months. A sustained period of house price growth in excess of pay rises has made it increasingly difficult for many to purchase a home." 

A less prosperous voyage

The United States and China both reported monthly trade deficits. The US one was wholly expected, the Chinese one less so. Canada reported a small surplus.

Analysts say the Chinese deficit was the result of the new year holiday. They did not predict it but this sort of thing has happened before so it did not come as a complete surprise. America's $48.5bn shortfall was the biggest in five years. To an extent it strengthened Mr Trump's protectionist hand, since the trade gap with China widened to $31.3bn, and to an extent it didn't, because the deficit with Mexico narrowed to $3.9bn.

The two other ecostats of note yesterday were Euroland's fourth quarter growth, which remained unchanged at 0.4%, and New Zealand's GDT index of milk prices, which was down by -6.3%. Neither had an appreciable impact.

Budget day

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will be on his feet in the House of Commons at lunchtime to present the budget. With Article 50 in the air it is unlikely that he will announce anything economically dramatic.

It is rare for the UK budget to have any impact on the pound. Equally, however, it is rare for one to be delivered with anything as momentous as Brexit dangling over the economy. Although it probably will not, today's could be the one that bucks the tranquil trend.

Wednesday's economic statistics are of medium or low importance. Swiss inflation is vaguely interesting and the ADP employment change figure will be seen as a pointer to Friday's highly important US employment report. Otherwise, investors will give little more than a glance to Canadian housing starts and building permits and US unit labour costs and nonfarm productivity.