UK CPI printed stronger than market expectations on Tuesday at 1.8% year-on-year vs. forecasts for 1.7%, and GBP/USD is pushing back towards 1.69. UK Retail Sales then beat expectations on Wednesday with an m/m jump of 1.3%, far exceeding the forecast of 0.4%. This further fuels those growing arguments for an early BoE rate hike.
Concurring with the release of retail sales figures, MPC meeting minutes also came out. The Committee were happy to look through the temporary effects of the recent appreciation of the pound. There remained disagreement amongst members as to the degree of labour market slack, whilst the bank continued to stress that any rises in interest rates would be gradual. When it came to voting, there were no surprises -members voted 9-0 to leave interest rates and QE unchanged.
By Alex Edwards at UKForex, an international money transfer service
All seemed positive for the pound until weak public sector borrowing data was released on Thursday. It really took markets by surprise. The data showed UK government borrowing rising sharply in April to £11.5bn, up from £1.9bn y/y. Investors were heavily long GBP/USD heading into the release and the surprise number was a good excuse to trim those positions. However, the pair only fell back into well-trodden ranges and 1.68 remained intact. This, in turn, means a break above 1.70 this week still can’t be ruled out, so long as data continues to impress this week.
The euro has slumped throughout the week. The ECB’s Yves Mersch was speaking on Monday and said that the likelihood of the governing council acting at its next monetary policy meeting in June had grown substantially. This set the tone for the rest of the week. Data was hardly supportive either: German PPI (producer prices) came in under forecasts at -0.1% whilst weaker than expected French Flash Manufacturing and Services PMIs as well as German Manufacturing PMI also weighed on the euro. EUR/USD then slumped through the 200-day moving average come the end of the week, which, from a technical standpoint, opens up room for further losses this week.
Meanwhile, the USD finished the week on a firmer footing. The main event of the week, the FOMC meeting minutes, failed to tell us anything new. The Fed stressed that there was still slack in the US labour market (due in large part to low wage growth), that inflation was likely to remain low and that therefore, interest rates were likely to remain low for an extended period of time. The dollar has strengthened, too, despite the release of mixed data, namely US unemployment claims and existing home sales.
The focus for investors next week will be on US Durable Goods data on Tuesday and Prelim GDP on Thursday. There’s not an enormous amount of data out from the UK or Europe, but unless the rhetoric from ECB officials changes over the coming days, we might well see the euro continue to lose ground, as the monetary policy meeting on 5th June fast approaches. A rate cut isn’t yet fully priced in, but we could get closer to this situation come the end of next week.
Further reading: How not to regret a trade