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Hi everyone ~
I hope we'll all be able to enjoy the best Easter weekend we can;  friends, family and the things you love the most.

Just wanted to send through our weekly round-up of the major currency movements from last week's Covid market - understandably a very volatile time -

 

Weekly Update

10.April 2020

 

GBP

Held back by PM’s absence

The FX market was not at its most coherent over the shortened pre-holiday week. Initially the mood was upbeat, in anticipation that the tragic Covid-19 pandemic would soon have run its course and that life would return to normal. Then the doubts set in, and then they evaporated again. Sterling found itself in no-man’s land, left behind, in turn by the safe-havens and the commodity dollars. An eventual net average loss of 0.8% left sterling level with the US dollar and cost it a fifth of a euro cent. It lost appreciable ground to the Australian and NZ dollars.

Sterling’s situation was not improved by the prime minister in the intensive care unit of St Thomas’s Hospital. In his absence the government found it difficult to avoid looking indecisive and investors were less than impressed.

 

EUR

No agreement on fiscal stimulus

The purchasing managers’ index readings on Friday provided a reminder of just how difficult life has become for the services sector in parts of Europe. On a scale of 0-100, where 50 represents stagnation and zero means annihilation, Italy scored 17.4 in March. Euroland as a whole was not a whole lot better at 26.4 and the composite euro zone reading was a dismal 29.7 (UK 36.0). 

For the euro the biggest challenge was the failure of euro zone finance ministers to find common cause on joint fiscal stimulus. After a 16-hour video conference on Tuesday the Eurogroup was unable to agree on a way to provide emergency finance to the countries – particularly Italy – hardest-hit by the tragic Coronavirus. The impasse highlighted the EU’s national divisions but did not prevent it picking up a fifth of a US cent.

 

USD

Rides out job losses

In the normal course of affairs the single most important US economic statistic is the monthly change in nonfarm payrolls. Over the last 12 months they averaged a 150k increase. Last Friday’s figure, nominally for March, was an aberration, falling 701k. However, the timing of the data completely understated the carnage that has taken place in the US labour market. In the last two weeks 10 million people signed on unemployed and another six million are likely to have joined them in this week’s figures.

However, so inured are investors to miserable statistics that there was no reaction from the US dollar. It was unchanged against sterling and a fifth of a cent lower against the euro.

 

AUD

This week’s top performer

Although the data and economic news from Australia were mostly mediocre, the Aussie was the week’s top performer, strengthening by an average of 1.7% against the other majors. It took more than five cents off sterling and added one and a half US cents. The main driver for the Aussie was the same one that demoted the safe-haven Japanese yen to the back of the field. Investors found renewed confidence that things would be alright as soon as Covid-19 has vanished. It may have been premature but, ‘Fear Of Missing Out’, took risk assets and commodity currencies higher across the board.

February’s 0.5% monthly rise in retail sales was irrelevant but the downturn in international trade for the same month was at least in part a function of the shutdown in China. When the Reserve Bank of Australia left its benchmark Cash Rate unchanged at 0.25% on Tuesday it noted that “a very large economic contraction is… expected to be recorded in the June quarter and the unemployment rate is expected to increase to its highest level for many years”.

 

NZD

Following the Aussie

True to form, the Kiwi shared some, but not all of the Aussie’s fate. This week it had a positive effect, taking the NZ dollar an average of 0.9% higher against its peers. It added one US cent and took three and a half cents off sterling. 

NZ data showed a 3.9% monthly fall for electronic card retail sales in March and a 1.2% fortnightly increase in dairy prices. The most interesting number, however, was the sharp fall in business confidence. NZIER’s Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion found confidence plummeting from -21% to -70% in March. A net 16% of firms plan to reduce headcount in the next quarter. 

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