Today’s rate @ 08:00 1.1298
Morning Report 17.01.2019
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A win for the government
The pound scooped the pool for the second time this week, adding an average of 0.5% against the other major currencies. Had the government lost the motion of no confidence yesterday evening it would have been a very different story but turkeys tend not to vote for Christmas.
There was little drama in the FX market and no particular reaction to the result of the confidence vote. The prime minister had been expected to win the day and she did so by the expected margin. The de facto Brexiteer-in-chief, Jacob Rees-Mogg told a TV interviewer that he would never vote to “put a Marxist in Downing Street”.
Following the vote, Theresa May called upon MPs to “put self-interest aside” and invited Britain’s political leaders to join together in achieving a consensus on how to proceed. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declined, refusing to join discussions unless the prime minister rules out a no-deal Brexit. Some of the media criticised Mr Corbyn for his stance but investors gratefully welcomed another opponent of no deal.
Inflation and the bank
During the big build-up to the no confidence vote, investors could be forgiven for paying scant attention to the UK inflation data and Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s appearance at Parliament’s Treasury Committee. Both passed off fairly peacefully.
The headline rate of UK inflation was in line with expectations, down from 2.3% to 2.1% in December. Manufacturers’ costs were up by 3.7% on the year while factory gate prices rose by 2.5%. The retail price index, which still governs many wages and pensions, went up by 2.7% in 2018.
Mark Carney was in Westminster, talking to the Treasury Committee about the bank’s Financial Stability Report. He made the point that sterling’s rebound following the government defeat on Tuesday evening was due in large part to expectations that there would be a delay to Brexit beyond 29 March and that it would not be disorderly. For the avoidance of doubt, he spelt out to the committee that “the markets, like the country, are looking to Parliament for direction, and one could expect continued volatility”.
Today’s rate @ 08:00 1.1298
The other numbers
House builders in the United States were a little more upbeat in January; the NAHB index was two points higher at 58. Estate agents in Britain were vaguely depressed, with “uncertainty still biting” into a “weak” housing market as the RICS house price balance continued its decline to -19%.
The US Federal Reserve’s Beige Book survey of economic activity found “eight of twelve Federal Reserve Districts reporting modest to moderate growth”. The news was helpful to the US dollar, which was only narrowly behind sterling on the day. Mortgage loans continued to decline in Australia, falling by 0.9% in November with lending down by 4.5% on the month. The Aussie is a cent and a third lower on the day.
Today’s agenda is somewhat brief. Euroland will release the finalised CPI figures, expected to leave the headline rate of inflation unchanged at 1.6%. The Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index is forecast, perhaps optimistically, to improve by a point to 10.0. Tonight brings NZ business confidence, Australian new home sales and the Japanese inflation data. Mercifully, no momentous votes are scheduled in the Palace of Westminster.
Weekly Brief – 11th January 2019
EUR weekly currency update
When the Euroland statisticians got back into their swing after the holidays they churned out rather too many unimpressive numbers. The ones of greatest concern to investors were those for German factory orders and industrial production. Orders were down by 4.3% on the year and industrial output was 4.7% lower. The 1.1% annual rise in German retail sales looked alright but Germany’s fortunes rely on making things, not shopping.
At the pan-Euroland level, the picture was hardly any brighter. Sentiment surveys by Sentix and the European Commission found investor confidence at a four-year low and economic confidence at a two-year low. Inflation missed target too, with the headline rate slowing to a provisional 1.6%. The euro’s only salvation was that investors had taken against the US dollar. It added one and a third US cents and went up by a fifth of a cent against sterling.
GBP weekly currency update
After putting Brexit out of their minds over the holidays, investors had to start grappling with it again when the first proper working week of 2019 began. The politicians were back in Westminster and the government defeats were coming thick and fast. Two amendments were passed by the Commons; one restricts government spending on a no-deal Brexit, the other obliges the prime minister to come up with a Plan B within 3 days if next Tuesday’s vote goes against her.
Although both of those militate against a “hard” Brexit and are therefore theoretically positive for the pound, they also increase – and perhaps extend – the uncertainty. Investors were not totally convinced and they marked down the pound on most fronts. It lost an average of 0.6% to the other major currencies, though it did make headway against the safe-haven Swiss franc and Japanese yen as well as the US dollar.