Sterling remains flavor of the month
Sterling has climbed by a further three cents against the euro in the past fortnight. Sterling’s progress against commodity currencies such as the AUD, NZD, CAD and ZAR has been ever more impressive in the past few months. Sterling has climbed by over 10% against the ZAR and NZD since mid-Feb, while it has advanced against the ZAR by the same margin since mid-March.
Sterling’s safe-haven status is behind its demand and this is not something we see disappearing any time soon. Also helping the pound was last week’s MPC vote against further quantitative easing. Whilst there will be some nerves surrounding the voting pattern (to be revealed by the MPC minutes next week), stubbornly high inflation seems to be of greater concern to the policymakers (thus making more QE harder to justify). Tomorrow’s Quarterly Inflation Report from the Bank of England will be highly relevant in this regard. A firmer inflation outlook is likely to be provided, which again should be broadly supportive of the pound.
Euro suffers from lack of Greek coalition agreement
Global investor confidence and risk appetite has taken a turn for the worse in the past fortnight, driven by concerns over Greece. Since the failure of the ruling Greek coalition to maintain sufficient votes at its recent election, major doubts have arisen as to whether Greece will remain within the euro. Coalition talks have collapsed and another election will be held in mid-June, which means the current uncertainty will be extended. As a result, Spanish and Italian bond yields are on the rise, with the former’s 10-year debt yields looking particularly alarming at fresh 2012 highs over 6.25%.
Should an anti-austerity coalition government surface from the current mess, then Greek bailout funds would be withheld, leading to default and a probable Greek breakaway. The knock-on effects in the eurozone and the global financial system as a whole are expected to be more drastic than those of Lehman’s collapse. It is no surprise then, that the euro has suffered a significant decline, with perceived safer-currencies such as sterling and the US dollar filling the void.
GDP data out of the eurozone was very mixed indeed this morning. Italy broadly stuck to the script by contracting by 0.8% in Q1 of this year, while French growth remained stagnant. However, the German economy grew by 0.5% in Q1, which helped the eurozone economy as a whole avoid a technical recession by posting a 0.0% GDP figure. This development has given the euro a mild boost today but with so much austerity still to be delivered in the eurozone and today’s forward-looking economic sentiment surveys showing a fairly sharp decline, eurozone growth is highly likely to return to negative territory this year.
Sterling is trading at €1.25 today, which represents near enough a three and a half year high. We are not calling a top to this pair’s ascent just yet either, with nerves surrounding Greece likely to deteriorate over the coming weeks. In risk averse conditions, the pound has understandably traded a little softer against the US dollar, coming off its highs of $1.63 to trade two and a half cents lower today. This pair could well test the $1.60 level fairly soon, though we are not anticipating any major collapse.
End of week forecast
GBP / EUR 1.26
GBP / USD 1.5950
EUR / USD 1.27
GBP / AUD 1.61