The Pound is Sterling ?

Marc To Market's picture

The main characteristic of the global capital markets is one of consolidation.  The two weakest currencies against the dollar, sterling and the yen, are trading firmer today.  Sterling, which finished the North American session on a firm note after falling to new 3-year lows, saw follow through short-covering, which lifted it to a three day high.   After running out of steam in Asia on Tuesday, profit-taking saw the dollar ease to test support in the JPY95.50 area in early Europe.

The yen's recovery encouraged profit-taking in the Nikkei, which finished lower for the second consecutive session.  Equity markets more generally were lower after profit-taking was seen on Wall Street yesterday..  The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was off about 0.6%, while the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is off 0.3% near midday in London.  The Shanghai Composite fell 1%.  At five sessions, it is experiencing its longest losing streak at least four months.  The MSCI Emerging Market Index fall Monday and Tuesday and is falling today as well.

US Treasuries snapped a six day losing streak yesterday and look poised to recover further today, barring a major surprise with the retail sales (consensus 0.5% on the headline and 0.2% excluding autos, gasoline and building materials, which is used for GDP calculations).   European bonds are little changed, though Italian bonds were under a bit a pressure ahead of the bond auction and rose further after the lukewarm results. 

The newly elected parliament is to formally sit on Friday and elect a president in each chamber (over the weekend) and it is still not clear what happens next.  Grillo want' his 5-Star Movement (M5S)  not to support any party and instead seek a mandate to form the next government.  However, M5S does not have a prime minister candidate, so it is not clear what this means.  A new election seems necessary, but cannot be called until a new President is selected and that does not appear possible until a new government is in place.  We suspect that in the crucible of these negotiations, as Grillo and the M5S gets closer scrutiny, cracks will emerge.  Grillo's claim in today's Handelsblatt that Italy is "already de facto" outside the euro area is incomprehensible.

The immediate focus in Japan is on the confirmation of the new BOJ team.  The only controversial element is the deputy Iwata.  While the DPJ has expressed its opposition, the other small opposition parties have reportedly signaled their intent to support him.  It is close, but the government appears to have the votes.  In the larger picture, this seems immaterial.  The BOJ is widely expected to announce large scale long government bond purchases and possibly combine the rinban operations (monthly purchases of JGBs by the BOJ) and the asset purchase program (QE).  In fact, the minutes from the BOJ meeting suggest others on the board are inclined to do so. 

Sterling is the strongest of the major currencies today and it has been a while since we have been able to write that.  There has been market talk of good demand for one month sterling calls struck near $1.55.  This could reflect 1) sterling bears buying some insurance and/or 2) bottom pickers anticipating a short squeeze ahead of the budget (March 20).  The weakness of sterling has spurred talk of rising inflation expectations.  One popular measure, the break-evens, which compares the yield of the convention instrument to the yield of the instruments linked to inflation, seems to be a bit misleading.  Anticipation of the resumption of BOE gilt purchases, could cause a widening of the spread.  We see other signals, such as in surveys, that inflation expectations are rising, but  worry that the break-evens may exaggerate it.

The antipodeans are little changed this week, but the events over the next day may inject greater volatility.  The RBNZ rate decision is at 20:00 GMT today.  It is widely expected to leave rates on hold, but if the statement is not hawkish, pointing to a rater hike before year end, the New Zealand dollar may be sold.  A bit later, (00.30 GMT March 14) Australia reports its jobs data.  The consensus expects around a 10k increase, but disappointment in the headline or details (full time positions have fallen for the past three months), could lead to new pressure on the Australian dollar.

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Marc To Market's picture

Ghoridius, the problem with debt foregivness is that 60%of Italian's debt is in thier own hands.  Debt foregiveness, seem to me, to screw the very people Grillo wants to help.  You might be right Grillo sometimes talks a private person and sometimes as the head of the movement.  How are we to tell the difference ? 

Ghordius's picture

+1 you can't. all parties are still in campaign mode and only the first presidential appointment will show the direction of the thing - followed perhaps by a second and a third

Italians like opera, after all, you can't take drama out of their politics

Aegelis's picture

"For inflation, please press pound"

masterinchancery's picture

The pound "sterling?"  Famous last words, the UK is a tran wreck.

Ghordius's picture

The Pound is Sterling? well, the British Pound would be even more Sterling if it would still be equivalent to... one pound of sterling silver

As I was previously writing here 3322828 the Bank of England is the only european national bank that has no loss absorption capabilities

As I was previously writing in many ZH comments in the world of currencies, size matters. As the smallest of the global currencies, there is some "hope" (by the British Government) that it will be the first currency zone that will experience serious inflation

the FT has an article about The Specter of Stagflation

we'll know when the problem is serious as soon as the BofE pegs the Pound to a bigger currency - and this will probably take a while in this very sluggish currency war

As I predicted several times in 2011/2012 one day we'll start, very slowly, to talk about FX reserves

this day is here, it's now - got my desk full of articles to read on the matter. And the BoE's FX reserve portofolio composition does not look the way I would wish for if I were it's Governor

Ghordius's picture

"Grillo want' his 5-Star Movement (M5S) not to support any party and instead seek a mandate to form the next government.  However, M5S does not have a prime minister candidate, so it is not clear what this means"

It means that M5S is still in campaign mode - and so hoping for a further election soon in order to ride the current wave

M5S's "problem" is nothing new in Italian politics - they are the new kid in the block and they have not partecipated yet to national politics. As soon as they do some support goes lost depending on how their MP's vote, and so their best outlook would be to go back to the urns and win a leading position

Ghordius's picture

"Grillo's claim in today's Handelsblatt that Italy is "already de facto" outside the euro area is incomprehensible" - correct. Except for the fact that the M5S movement has an agenda of 120 points on which they agreed, and the eurozone question is not part of it

Grillo's sometimes contradictory comments on the EUR are those of a private person (himself), not those of his movement

The Handelsblatt reports this "Italien werde von seinen Staatsschulden erdrückt und müsse daher die Kredite neu aushandeln. „Wenn die Zinsen 100 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr betragen, sind wir tot“, sagte Grillo. Wenn sich die Bedingungen nicht änderten, solle Italien den Euro aufgeben."

translated, it says that he sees the Italian Sovereign debt as the first priority, as soon as it costs 100bn per year it's over, so it's either debt forgiveness or Italy should leave the EUR