IMF boost emergency fund by $430bn but EUR remains pressurized
The weekend’s IMF and G20 meetings produced some real progress in the form of a combined $430bn of additional loans, to be used in the event of a deterioration of the eurozone debt crisis. Good news then, but Spanish 10-year bond yields are trading around the dangerous 6.00% level, and Italy’s equivalent debt is yielding 5.75% today, so it clear that the market remains characteristically skeptical.
The French presidential elections have increased the pressure being felt by the euro in recent sessions. Socialist candidate Francois Hollande received the most votes in the weekend’s initial round of voting and the euro, as well as European equities, has declined as a result. The final election will be held on May 6th and this political uncertainty is likely to weigh on the single currency in the meantime. The markets would probably prefer Sarkozy to remain in power, thus reducing the risk of a breakdown in cooperation between France and Germany on dealing with the debt crisis. Fresh concerns have also sprung up with respect to the Netherlands, which is likely to hold elections in light of the government’s collapse after failing to agree measures to slash its budget deficit.
As well as the weekend’s political concerns, the markets have had to digest some further disappointing eurozone economic data. A German manufacturing growth figure hit almost a three year low and figures out of the eurozone as a whole were equally alarming.
MPC's Posen gives sterling a boost
Sterling enjoyed a staggeringly strong week last week and has started the current one where it left off. MPC policymaker Adam Posen provided the main catalyst for the rally, with the minutes from the MPC’s April meeting revealing that he did not vote for further quantitative easing. The market may have got ahead of itself in pricing out the likelihood of further BoE quantitative easing. Posen may well have voted for no change due to the recent uptick in inflation and may have just preferred to see the current round of QE run its course (which it will have done by time of the MPC’s next meeting in early May). More monetary easing from the BoE is still a distinct possibility if UK inflation eases in the second half of the year and economic growth remains stagnant.
UK Q1 GDP figure to show some growth, albeit scant
Wednesday brings the release of the first quarter UK GDP figure. After last week’s excellent UK retail sales figure, we are fairly confident that we will not see another quarterly contraction. Estimates are falling around the 0.1% growth level, which is indicative of the uncertain footing from which the UK economy is building. Nonetheless, news that the UK has avoided a technical recession will be welcome (though the risks of disappointment are not insignificant).
Sterling is trading at almost a six-month high of $1.6150 at present and we continue to view these to be excellent levels at which to sell the pound. The Fed is likely to be more hawkish in its communiqué this week, whilst the US GDP figure is also likely to be impressive, which could well help the US dollar bounce back. Sterling is trading at almost a two-year high against the euro above €1.2250 and further gains are looking likely, though we may see upward progress stall as nerves kick in ahead of Wednesday’s GDP figure.
End of week forecast
GBP / EUR 1.23
GBP / USD 1.6050
EUR / USD 1.3050
GBP / AUD 1.5750