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Sterling turns positive on PM’s cabinet reshuffle

Mon 17 February 2020

The week ahead:

  • UK consumer inflation data (Wednesday, 9:30am)
  • US Federal Reserve policy meeting minutes (Wednesday, 7:00pm)
  • Euro zone consumer inflation data (Friday, 10:00am)

Highlights from last week:

  • Sterling gains as chancellor Javid resigns
  • US retail sales provide dollar with small boost
  • Euro zone economic growth dents euro prospects

The week ahead: Focus to remain on UK economy

Given last week’s disappointing UK economic growth figures for the final quarter of last year, a particular focus will be on this week’s data releases in the hope of at least some recovery. The UK’s labour market will firstly come under scrutiny with unemployment figures due for release on Tuesday at 9:30am. Consumer inflation data will follow on Wednesday at 9.30am, whilst the latest UK retail sales figures will be heard on Thursday at 9.30am.

A number of economic metrics will highlight the current health of the US economy this week. Building permits and new house builds data will be heard on Wednesday at 1:30pm. Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting will reveal what was discussed during the central bank’s last meet (Wednesday, 7:00pm). US service sector activity data is scheduled for 2:45pm on Friday with existing home sales following at 3.00pm.

The euro zone’s scheduled domestic releases will include consumer confidence data (Thursday, 3:00pm). A flash estimate of the euro zone’s service sector activity is due for release on Friday at 9:00am, whilst consumer inflation figures will conclude the euro’s week on Friday at 10:00am.

View UK, US and euro zone announcements with our economic calendar

Other key data releases:

South African consumer inflation (Wednesday, 8:00am)

Australian unemployment data (Thursday, 12:30am)

Japanese consumer inflation data (Thursday, 11:30pm)

Canadian retail sales data (Friday, 1:30pm)

Last week recap – Sterling rallies as Boris reshuffles cabinet

The prime minister’s latest cabinet reshuffle caused a stir on Thursday, forcing the chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid to resign his post and sparked a sterling advance.

Boris Johnson had suggested he would reappoint Mr Javid on the proviso he sack a number of his team members, something Mr Javid wasn’t prepared to do. The pound’s gains came as Rishi Sunak was confirmed as the new chancellor and is a move largely seen as allowing greater fiscal spending come March’s budget.

Figures released earlier in the week showed the UK economy failed to grow during the final three months of last year. A disappointing manufacturing performance saw the sector contract for the third month in a row in December whilst activity in the UK’s all-important service sector slowed given the timing of the general election.

At midday on Friday, a conversion of £20,000 to euros would have purchased €23,840 via our telephone Currency Service.

US dollar endures mixed week

Rising US consumer prices failed to plug the US dollar’s weekly decline against the pound last week. Inflation rose by 0.2% in January due to consumers paying more for rent and clothing. Friday afternoon’s release of US retail sales did help pare some of the dollar’s weekly losses after figures confirmed sales rose by 0.3% last month. January’s rise was largely due to increased sales at home furnishing centres and restaurants.

At midday on Friday, a conversion of £20,000 to US dollars would have purchased $25,838 via our telephone Currency Service.

Euro weaker as Germany pins back euro zone growth

It was a week to forget for the euro last week, suffering heavy losses against the pound as the euro zone’s economy continues to flounder.

Economic growth across the euro zone came in at just 0.1% during the last three months of 2019 with the lack of economic output from Germany being the main reason. Germany, which has historically been the main driver behind the zone’s overall growth failed to register any output during the final quarter of last year. There are further fears the outbreak of coronavirus could push the country in to recession.

Industrial production within the euro zone took a drastic fall during December, slumping at its fastest pace in nearly three years. Output dropped by 2.1% mainly due to a decline in the production of machinery and tools, sparking fears the figures could mean an overall decline in economic growth across the euro zone.

Australian and New Zealand dollars shrug off coronavirus risk

The Australian dollar held firm against the pound for much of last week after figures revealed the Australian consumer remained optimistic over the country’s economic prospects. Westpac’s Consumer Sentiment Index surpassed many economists’ expectations, rising by 2.3% this month despite fears surrounding the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Elsewhere, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s governor Philip Lowe warned his country is already paying the ‘economic price’ of global climate change after Australia’s recent bushfires and called for policy changes that would allow the country to exploit ‘fantastic’ renewable energy opportunities.

At midday on Friday, a conversion of £20,000 to Australian dollars would have purchased $38,494 via our telephone Currency Service.

The New Zealand dollar received a much needed boost from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand after the central bank signalled no immediate need to reduce interest rates. The central bank held interest rates at 1.0% in its latest policy meeting and suggested that whilst the coronavirus remains a risk, improving consumer inflation prices and employment has reduced the need for a rate cut for the foreseeable future.

At midday on Friday, a conversion of £20,000 to New Zealand dollars would have purchased $40,216 via our telephone Currency Service.

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