The Ball Is In the EU’s Court

A run of data and events have continued this week’s theme of improving risk appetite. Greece lived up to expectations, with the government announcing a EUR 4.8 billion package of austerity measures amounting to around 2% of GDP. The US ADP jobs data was in line with expectations, with employment dropping by 20k in February, whilst ISM non-manufacturing index delivered an upside surprise to 53.0 in February, contrasting with a weaker eurozone Purchasing Managers Index (PMI).

Greece now believes it has lived up to its part of the bargain and the ball is now in the court of EU countries. However the issue of aid from the EU remains highly sensitive with little sign of any aid forthcoming from EU partners. Moreover, Germany dealt a blow to Greek hopes by stating that financial aid would not be discussed when the Greek Prime Minister visits tomorrow. Failure to provide such assistance could see Greece turn to the IMF. The key test will be the roll over of around EUR 22 billion of debt in April/May.

Markets have reacted positively to recent events, with Greek debt rallying and the EUR strengthening to a high of 1.3727 overnight amidst reports that regulators are investigating hedge fund trades shorting the EUR. The 17 February high of 1.3789 will provide strong resistance to further EUR/USD upside but the currency looks vulnerable to selling on rallies above its 20-day moving average around 1.3631. The EUR will be driven by news about any aid to Greece rather than data whilst the medium term outlook remains bearish.

In the US the steady but gradual recovery in the economy is continuing to take shape. The Fed’s Beige Book revealed that economic activity “continued to expand” but severe snowstorms restrained activity in several districts. Overall, the report revealed little new information following so soon after Fed Chairman Bernanke’s testimony. Today’s US releases are second tier, with a likely upward revision to Q4 non-farm productivity to around 6.5% and a 1.5% increase in January factory orders.

As has been the case recently the weekly jobless claims data will garner more attention than usual given that it has recently signaled deterioration in job conditions. One factor that could have distorted the claims as well as the payrolls data is harsh weather conditions in parts of the US. Indeed, this has led us to cuts in forecasts for February non-farm payrolls scheduled to be released tomorrow, with the real consensus likely to be much weaker than the -65k shown in the Bloomberg survey.

There are four central bank decisions of interest today no change is likely from all of them. Indonesia and Malaysia are both edging towards raising interest rates but are likely to wait until Q2 2010 before hiking. There will be no surprises if the Bank of England (BoE) and European Central Bank (ECB) leave policy unchanged too, but there will be particular interest in the ECB’s announcement on changes in liquidity provision and the BoE’s signals on the potential for further expansion in quantitative easing. A dovish signal from the BoE will deliver GBP a blow, leaving GBP/USD vulnerable to a drop back below 1.50.


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