The debate over Greece continues to rumble on. France and Spain requested a separate summit meeting of the 16 heads of eurozone countries immediately before the full 27-member EU summit starting tomorrow but this was met with resistance. Meanwhile, Germany has called for “a substantial contribution” from the IMF towards a Greek aid package, whilst maintaining that no EU deal will be reached for Greece at the summit.
Frankly, the whole Greek saga has become extremely boring, with the lack of agreement about how to fix it doing little to inspire confidence. In particular the fractured opinion amongst EU leaders highlights the difficulties in reaching an agreement in a union made up of so many conflicting interests. At most the summit may agree on the conditions for a rescue package for Greece rather than a package itself. This will leave markets unimpressed,
US new home sales data today is likely to paint a slightly better picture with a small gain expected, albeit following the 11.2% plunge in the previous month. Sales will be helped by the extension of the home buyer tax credit. The US February durable goods orders report is also released today, with a small increase expected. A smaller gain in transport orders suggests that the 2.6% jump last month will not be repeated.
In Europe, the key release is the March German IFO business climate survey and a rebound is likely following February’s decline, helped by warmer weather and a weaker EUR. Flash readings of Eurozone March purchasing managers indices (PMIs) are also released but these are unlikely to extend gains from the previous month. Despite expectations of firmer data the EUR/USD is vulnerable to a further decline, with support around 1.3432 in sight for an imminent test.
Attention in the UK will turn to the pre-election Budget and particularly the government’s plans to cut spending and reduce the fiscal deficit. Failure to provide a credible blue print to restore fiscal credibility will damage confidence, heightening the risks of an eventual sovereign ratings downgrade and more pressure on GBP which appears destined for another drop below 1.50 versus USD.
Most currencies have remained within ranges and the most interesting currency pair is EUR/CHF having failed to react to verbal warnings from the Swiss National Bank (SNB) about excessive CHF strength. EUR/CHF looks vulnerable to a further decline unless the SNB follows up rhetoric with action. Even if there is FX intervention by the SNB it may prove to be a temporary barrier to a market with an eye on the psychologically important 1.4000 level.
Despite the pressure on the Japanese government and Bank of Japan (BoJ) to engineer a weaker JPY, export performance has proven resilient, with exports jumping 45.3% on the year in February, helped by the strength of demand from Asia. Unfortunately this is doing little to end Japan’s deflation problem and even if there is less urgency for a weaker JPY to boost exports, JPY weakness will certainly help to reduce deflationary pressures in the economy. USD/JPY is stubbornly clinging to the 90.00 level, with little inclination to move in either direction.