Moneycorp: Sterling lower; Swiss franc higher [29/12/2010]

Moneycorp: Sterling lower; Swiss franc higher [29/12/2010]

– Sterling lower; Swiss franc higher
– Unhelpful report from the CIPD

Good morning. The government’s Christmas present to its adoring voters (apart from a tasteful P45) was a proposal to encourage them to donate to charity every time they use an ATM hole in the wall. That’s going to work, isn’t it: “Balance £237.48 DR. And would you like to give a fiver to the Saltmine Trust?”

A donation to Save Our Sterling might make more sense. The pound took another hit yesterday morning for reasons nobody can determine. It will not have helped that Hometrack recorded another monthly fall in house prices, this time of -1.6% in December after a -1.1% fall in November, but cause and effect were separated by 36 hours so that cannot have been the problem. Nor was it anything to do with sterling-related economic developments. The only potentially negative news related to two Sterling banks losing money. But even the dimmest trader would have spotted that one was the Sterling Savings Bank in Kennewick, Washington, and the other was Wachovia Bank in Sterling, Virginia. Both were robberies.

The likeliest explanation for the pound’s fall is that it was simply the result of an oversized selling order in a seasonally undersized market. The outcome is that, compared to opening levels on Holidays’ Eve, sterling is down by half a cent against the US dollar and the euro. It is easier to justify its greater losses against the Canadian (two cents), Australian (two cents) and New Zealand (four cents) dollars. Commodity prices went into the weekend strong and have emerged even stronger, despite an interest rate increase by the People’s Bank of China that might have been seen as a cue for slower growth in the world’s second largest economy. Sterling’s fall of nearly two yen was also fair enough. For a second month the Japanese consumer price index (CPI) was up on the year. It was only up by 0.1% in the year to November (October 0.2%) but it was inflation, not deflation. There was good news from manufacturers there too. Industrial production rose by 1.0% in November, the first monthly increase after six months of negative numbers.

Top of the tree over the long weekend was the Swiss franc, which touched all-time highs against the US dollar and the pound and came close to the record against the euro which it achieved a week ago. Although Switzerland’s economy is closely linked with – and surrounded by – Euroland the franc provides investors with what they evidently see as the ultimate safe haven for their money.

The pound’s problems this morning stem from a report by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. It says unemployment will rise to a 17-year high with 120,000 job losses in the public sector next year and 80,000 laid off by the private sector. The CIPD foresees a “jobless recovery” in Britain similar in style to the one that is going on in the United States.

But at least there will be no hard economic statistics to get in sterling’s way today or tomorrow apart from The Bank of England’s figures for housing equity withdrawal. It does not need a brain the size of a planet to guess that it will be another negative number. People are paying down their mortgages while they still can rather than suffering the indignity of asking for an advance they know will be refused.

Euro zone money supply will fail to excite investors and the KOF Swiss leading indicator will not put them off the franc. Terranet’s Canadian house price index could conceivably have an impact but such things are less emotive for the Loonie than they are for the pound. Today’s currency movements will owe more to an illiquid market than they will to the ecostats.

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