Pound Sterling - UK Markets

According to the latest Experian Footfall UK National Index, consumers continued to desert the High Street in March, with shopper numbers falling by 1.7% across the UK. Wales and the South West were the worst hit regions, with shopper numbers down 7.13%. Only the North East, South East and East Midlands recorded a rise.

The UK purchasing managers index for the manufacturing sector improved significantly in March from a record low in February, data from economics research group Markit Economics has shown.

The manufacturing PMI lifted to 39.1 in March from 34.9 in February. Analysts had been expecting a marginal rise to 35.0. While the figure is still historically low, it suggests belief that a recovery by early 2010 is possible.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Alistair Darling has gone back on plans to increase business rates by 5% from 1 April. Mr Darling said the rise was linked to the Retail Prices Index last year, but RPI inflation had now fallen to zero. The Chancellor said businesses would face only a 2% rise this year and the remaining 3% would be smoothed out over the following two years.

US Dollar - US Markets

US house prices fell by a record 19% in January compared with a year earlier, according to a closely-watched index. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price index records prices in 20 of the largest cities in the US.

The index also showed a month-on-month fall as prices fell 2.8% in January compared with December. Earlier this month, figures showed home construction in February rose by a quarter year-on-year, raising hopes the US housing market may be bottoming out.

Euro - European Markets

Retail sales in Germany unexpectedly fell 0.2% on the month in February from January, according to seasonally adjusted figures released by the Federal Statistics Office. The data is yet another signal that household demand in Europe's largest economy remains depressed, leaving little hopes for a recovery in the near future.

Further bad news from Spain, as car registrations fell 39% on the year in March, Spanish car manufacturers' association Anfac has said. In a release, Anfac said 76,503 cars were registered in March, down from 124,702 a year earlier. Car registrations fell by 49% on the year in February and by 42% in January. Not even rapidly decelerating consumer price inflation and falling mortgage payments as a result of European Central Bank rate cuts have been able to stimulate Spanish consumption.

Other Currencies - Highlights

Business confidence among major manufacturers in Japan is at a record low, according to a wide-ranging survey by the Japanese central bank. The quarterly Tankan survey of more than 10,000 companies is closely watched in Japan as a key indicator of the health of the country's economy. Results released by the Bank of Japan show that business confidence among major manufacturers tumbled dramatically, hitting the lowest level ever recorded.

Elsewhere, business confidence in Poland's industrial sector held up better than expected in March but remained in sharply negative territory, as new orders remained near record lows while job shedding continued. A survey of 300 industrial companies prepared by Markit showed Polish manufacturing PMI rose to 42.2 in March, from 40.8 in February - its third straight monthly increase and considerably better than the 40.9 figure that had been forecast.