GBP/USD struggling above 1.6700

Although the Bank of England meeting is likely to be a non event today from a market perspective GBP/USD is clearly struggling to sustain a move above 1.6700. GBP/USD has breached 1.6700 12 times since mid February but only closed above this level 4 times. Over the near term strong resistance around 1.6769 will cap gains in the currency pair, with GBP continuing to look vulnerable above 1.6700. Some recent misses on the data front have not helped GBP’s cause, suggesting that caution for GBP bulls is warranted. GBP bulls may find more traction versus EUR instead of USD, with EUR/GBP set to come under further downward pressure as the EUR weakens anew. A break below 0.8200 beckons.

Good data boosts AUD

Australia released some solid data this morning, with both January retail sales (1.2% MoM versus 0.4% consensus) and trade data (AUD 1433 mn versus AUD 100 mn consensus) beating expectations. Following on from yesterday’s better than forecast Q4 GDP data the news gave a boost to AUD helping it to break 0.90 versus the USD. The data especially retail sales highlights the growing strength of the consumer in Australia and reaffirms that the next move in policy rates will be up. Taken together with a firmer tone to risk appetite and the relatively solid 7.5% official growth target set for China’s economy this year, AUD/USD is set to remain well supported.

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CHF pressures

USD/CHF and EUR/CHF enjoyed a bounce as risk aversion eased but continued uncertainty over the situation in the Ukraine suggests that any upward momentum will be limited. The fact that the largest economic impact from any worsening in tensions with Russia will be felt in the Eurozone highlights that life may become difficult once again for the Swiss National Bank as renewed safe haven inflows move into the country. Indeed the EUR/CHF floor at 1.20 may be tested over coming weeks. Data tomorrow will likely give further reason for the SNB to oppose CHF strength, with the annual rate of CPI inflation set to remain very low.

EUR eyeing ECB decision

Will they or won’t they? Following the slightly higher than expected January CPI inflation reading and some improvement in economic data such as the Feb PMI manufacturing survey earlier this week expectations for policy easing by the ECB today have diminished. Consequently the EUR has been well supported above 1.3700 even in the face of growing conflict on its doorstep in Ukraine. The risk / reward today is therefore skewed to a bigger EUR (negative) reaction if the ECB does act to ease policy, a possibility that the market may not be giving sufficient credence too. For what it’s worth 3m interest rate futures and 2 year US – Eurozone yield differentials suggest that EUR/USD is overbought.

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Calmer market tone ahead of key events

Markets have taken on somewhat of a calmer tone in part due to hopes that discussions between the US and Russia will find some form of solution to the recent escalation of tensions in Ukraine. The nearing of European Central Bank and Bank of England policy decisions today and the US jobs report on Friday have also led to inaction and range trading in markets. Consequently US equities ended flat overnight while risk appetite improved.

Meanwhile, investors are continuing to ignore poor US data attributing it to the weather, with a weaker than forecast February ADP private sector jobs report (139k versus 155k consensus) and February ISM non manufacturing survey (51.6 versus 53.5 consensus), registered overnight. Notably the Fed’s Beige Book repeatedly highlighted the weather impact on US data. Clearly weaker data is not being seen as changing the path of Fed tapering over coming months.

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