"Surprise bounce" in house prices
Pound Sterling - UK Markets
Following the Nationwide report, the pound has climbed to a multi-week high against the euro. The pound has also climbed to a 16-day high against the Swiss franc, an 8-day high versus the Japanese yen and a 1-week high against the US dollar. Interbank rates for the GBP-EUR pairing are currently around 1.095, with the GBP-USD pair trading around 1.455.
US Dollar - US Markets
Although roughly in line with Wall Street expectations, the US auto industry's monthly sales were sharply down on this time last year. General Motors said its sales fell 45% compared with March 2008, Ford's sales dropped by 41% and Chrysler's by 39%. Chrysler said its results were better than feared, after it sold 101,000 cars - the first time it had exceeded 100,000 a month since September.
Euro - European Markets
The euro is under pressure ahead of an expected interest rate cut by the European Central Bank. Analysts expect the ECB to trim interest rate by 50 bps to a record low of 1%. Investors also anticipate that the ECB may adopt unconventional measures such as quantitative easing. Ahead of the announcement, the single currency is trading higher against the US dollar, up to around an interbank rate of 1.3278.
Pressure has increased on the ECB to cut rates after data revealed that unemployment across the eurozone rose to its highest level in almost three years in February. The jobless rate across the 16 nations that share the euro rose to 8.5%, or 13.47 million, up from 8.3% in January, official figures show. With unemployment at 15.5%, Spain has the highest level of unemployment in the eurozone.
French producer prices fell again in February from January, and by more than expected, due to lower food and energy prices, data released by French national statistics office Insee has shown. In February, French producer prices fell 0.5% on the month and fell 3.7% from a year earlier, Insee said. For the sole French market, producer prices fell 0.6% in February from January and dropped 4.5% from a year earlier.
Other Currencies - Highlights
During early deals on Thursday, the Australian dollar soared to its highest level in nearly three months against the euro as Australia's trade surplus increased more than expected in February.
Australia posted a seasonally adjusted trade surplus of A$2.1 billion in February, far higher than analyst expectations for a surplus of A$700 million and following the A$970 million surplus in January. The Aussie is now hovering around the interbank rate of 1.8864 against the euro and has risen to around 0.7063 against its American counterpart.