Pound Sterling - UK Markets

The pound has weakened this morning against most of its international currency partners in the run up to the budget released today. The pound is trading in the vicinity of 1.45 against the US dollar and is down 0.5% against the euro with further exchange rate volatility likely throughout the day.

This morning's budget is expected to be the most negative in a generation predicting a 3-3.5% growth contraction for 2009 and a deficit climbing to 12% of GDP. The government is also expected to announce plans for spending cuts and rising tax from 2011 along with moves to revitalise the property market and create thousands of new jobs in the UK. Minutes from the last Bank of England meeting also released this morning are likely to have little affect on markets as it remains too early to asses the effects of quantitative easing. The ILO unemployment rate has risen to 6.7% in the three months to February and public sector borrowing has increased to GBP19.1 billion, significantly ahead of market expectations. Also this morning, HM Revenue and Customs has announced a 40% jump in home sales for March. The budget is released at 12:30.

US Dollar - US Markets

The dollar has gained against the pound and euro this morning as uncertainty over the UK budget and fallout from the IMF report are weighing on the major currencies. The dollar is trading in the region of 0.68 versus the Pound and 0.77 versus the euro and has gained on the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand currencies.

A speech from Treasury Secretary Geithner's yesterday led markets to a brief rally as he reassured investors of bank balance sheets. Equity markets and currency exchange rates are largely determined by the prevailing mood regarding the banking sector at present as this determines international appetite for risk. The USD-GBP exchange rate will likely be affected by the UK budget released today and we could see a weakening of the pound against the dollar. US mortgage applications and the housing price index for February are released later in the day.

Euro - European Markets

The euro continues its bearish run of the currency markets this morning, trapped below 1.3 against the US dollar and 0.89 against the pound. The euro has also declined against its Asian currency partners as details of an IMF report predict a long and entrenched recession for emerging European nations.

Positive news yesterday came in the form of the German ZEW economic survey which showed a surprise rise in confidence from -3.5 to 13. However, the fact that the euro failed to fully capitalise on this speaks volumes about market perception surrounding the Eurozone at present. Continued uncertainty from the ECB and details of the IMF financial stability report are weighing on the euro. The IMF forecast yesterday that European banks could face more substantial write downs and require greater capitalization than US banks. The IMF also expects a net investment loss to Eastern Europe with little hope of recovery in 2010 and 2011. There is little of note in the Eurozone today with the EMU current account, purchasing manager index and industrial new orders released tomorrow.

Other Currencies - Highlights

The yen advanced overnight as Japanese trade balance figures show the slump is slowing down. March export figures snapped a four month spell of record losses and this, in combination with worries over what further stress tests could expose in the US, caused the yen to advance on a basket of international currencies.

The Bank of Canada cut interest rates to a record low of 0.25% yesterday and plans to leave it there until inflation returns to its 2% target. The Canadian economy is expected to shrink 3% this year and the central bank is expected to announce a framework for quantitative easing on Thursday. This is weighing on the Canadian dollar at present. Leading indicators are published today.