Pound Sterling - UK Markets

Sterling is sliding this morning against its major currency partners with the release of first quarter GDP figures showing the UK economy contracted significantly in early 2009. This morning the pound has slid over 1% on the euro, yen and New Zealand dollar, and 0.4% against the US dollar.

ONS statistics show the UK economy contracted -1.9% in the first quarter of 2009. This follows a -1.6% contraction in the previous quarter and was substantially higher than the -1.5% predicted by most economists. This takes the annual growth rate to -4.1%, a contraction significantly larger than the 3% predicted by Alistair Darling earlier in the week. Retail sales figures, a key indicator of consumer spending, rose 0.3% in March. Sterling is likely to continue its bearish run today as these figures, along with the 12.4% budget deficit, play on the minds of investors. Credit agency Moody's has also expressed concern over the levels of government borrowing, which is set to reach GBP175 billion this year, prompting concerns the UK may lose its AAA credit rating. There is no further data in the UK today. 

US Dollar - US Markets

The dollar is weaker across the board this morning, down 0.9% against the euro and yen, gaining only on the pound in terms of the major currencies.

The growing perception of ‘green shoots' emerging in the US economy this week has supported a series of rallies in markets, boosting some of the higher yielding currencies at the expense of the dollar. Solid corporate earnings from Bank of America and Citigroup and increased funding from G20 nations have contributed to the view that the worst of recession may be easing. These rallies however, remain capped by bouts of negative data, with news that home sales fell 3% in March renewing concerns over the property market. The Federal Reserve's methodology for stress testing banks is released today with results of the tests due on May 4. Market opinion currently is that the purging of toxic assets is far from over and the extent of credit write downs could damage positive sentiment in weeks to come. Durable goods orders and new home sales are out today.

Euro - European Markets

The euro has gained across the board this morning, strengthening to test 1.32 against the US dollar and gaining over 1.3% on the pound. The single currency has dipped slightly against the yen, Swedish kronor and Swiss franc.

The euro has benefitted from a glut of negative data released in the UK this week and rallies in equities supporting slightly higher risk appetite. Economic data yesterday showing the pace of recession in the Eurozone easing also boosted confidence and the euro has moved to consolidate on this support. This morning, figures show the German IFO business climate and expectations rose to 83.7 and 83.9 respectively, which bode well for the rest of the region. There is no further data from the Eurozone today.

Other Currencies - Highlights

The Australian and Kiwi dollars have capped off a week of declines against the yen on concerns that recession will reduce demand for the export products of the two nations. Next week markets are likely to focus on the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's interest rate decision where a 0.5% reduction is expected, and the National Bank of Australia's business confidence survey.