Will Sterling Have Another Strong Week?
Sterling enjoyed a solid week last week, touching its highest levels against the euro for 18 months in quiet trading before retreating on Friday as speculators took their profits. It was helped higher by a solid rebound in Gross Domestic Product which encouraged thoughts of the economy returning to pre-pandemic levels before the year is out. The Bank of England is now firmly positioned as one of the favourite central banks to start implementing a less accommodative policy relatively quickly, as is the Federal Reserve in the US. Their stance will continue to strengthen these currencies against most of the G10, with some exceptions such as the Australian Dollar. The euro is one of the currencies most likely to suffer from this scenario and, despite a recovery in its fortunes of Friday, looks vulnerable to suffer further falls.
The week ahead is another quiet week for macroeconomic data from the Eurozone. Still, this information gap will be adequately filled by a full week of statistics from the UK and some interesting releases from the US, which we go through in more detail later. With the markets firmly in the summer doldrums, currencies can reasonably be expected to stay within their current ranges unless an unexpected event upsets the calm. However, with the Delta variant of Covid causing more problems in the US, a shock from that direction cannot be totally discounted, and it may already be affecting growth prospects if Friday’s unexpectedly sharp fall in US Consumer Confidence is anything to go by. Finally, we will be monitoring risk sentiment closely after the weekend’s events in Afghanistan and any regional repercussions from them.
As previously mentioned, sterling had a good week, especially against the euro. The compendium of data published this week in the UK will determine whether the recent strength continues will be primarily determined. The data flow gets underway tomorrow with the release of the Unemployment rate for July, which is expected to show a modest fall. However, it must be remembered that the ongoing job support schemes still distort it. On Wednesday, the July Consumer Price Index (CPI) is released, a figure that is likely to be slightly unreliable due to the distortion to prices caused by last year’s reopenings in the same month. It will come as no surprise if a lower rate is recorded and probably ignored by the markets. Finally, on Friday, July’s Retail Sales and the Gfk Consumer Confidence readings will be released. Hopefully, after this tumult of information, we should have a much clearer picture of how the economy is recovering, which will set the short-term direction of sterling. Apart from the macroeconomic information, the other influences on sterling’s path will be the speed of the spread of Covid and disputes over the Brexit treaty, which still appear to be rumbling in the background.
A relatively quiet week of data for the Eurozone is in prospect. Still, the reports that are released should make for interesting reading but are unlikely to lend the euro too much strength against either sterling or the Dollar. First off the printing press is the first revision for Second Quarter GDP tomorrow morning with a consensus forecast of around 2.00%. Next up on Wednesday is the Consumer Price Index, which analysts expect to show a relatively subdued reading of 2.2% compared to its main trading partners. Finally, with the German election looming in September and a tight race to replace Angela Merkel developing, the market is starting to watch opinion polls more attentively, and they may come to influence the euro’s direction.
With inflation still showing underlying strength in the US and employment on the up, the Dollar continued to shine as more officials make a case for a policy change. Many in the currency markets expect some talk concerning this at the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole Symposium at the end of this month. Ahead of the meeting and with a shortage of scheduled speakers from the Fed, Wednesday’s release of the minutes from July’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting will take on more importance than usual. The minutes will undoubtedly be dissected, especially the discussions over tapering, and we expect them to be hawkish after recent comments from Fed speakers. The data week starts tomorrow with July’s Retail Sales which are expected to be distorted by supply chain disruptions in the car market. Also on the slate tomorrow is July’s Industrial Production, and in addition to the FOMC minutes on Wednesday, Housing starts are released. Finally, the weekly Jobless claims report is published on Thursday as usual.
Another rather uneventful week for the Swedish krona, which was once more very much rangebound against all G10 currencies. The inflation figure came in as expected, thus strengthening the current sentiment that the Riksbank will not take any action for the foreseeable future. This week sees no important data releases.
The Norwegian krone suffered as the White House called for oil production to be increased, despite falling demand. At the moment, such macro events seem to drive the krone rather than data releases. This week Governor Olsen is expected to keep rates unchanged on Thursday. As has been the case for the past year, the press conference will be a significant event where market participants will look for hints if an interest rate hike is coming or not, given the past eight months of less than terrific data. At the start of the year, trusted readers will remember that a hike for September was pretty much a certainty.