Pound Sterling - UK Markets

UK consumer confidence fell in March as fears continued about jobs, according to the Nationwide whose confidence index dropped two points to 41. UK unemployment recently hit two million for the first time since 1997. Nationwide said consumer confidence was "broadly stable since the start of the year, but feelings about the current labour market have weakened". Nationwide's consumer confidence index has now fallen for nine consecutive months.

US Dollar - US Markets

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher has minimised downside risks to the US dollar posed by the US government's rapidly rising borrowing needs.

In a statement delivered at a forum in Tokyo, Fisher said that problems facing other currencies, such as the euro, were bigger than those facing the United States. As a result, dollar-denominated assets will remain relatively attractive, he said.

Following Fisher's comments and the Eurostat report, the euro is currently around an interbank rate of 1.308-1.336 against the US dollar this morning, down around 0.6%.

Euro - European Markets

French trade deficit widened in February to EUR4.11 billion from a revised figure of EUR3.71 billion in January - a figure slightly lower than expected - data from the Customs Service showed today. Exports in February fell to EUR28.86 billion from EUR29.29 billion the previous month, while imports also fell to EUR32.97 billion from EUR33.01 billion in January.

The Irish Republic has unveiled its second budget in six months to deal with its rapidly contracting economy. The emergency budget includes a large rise in taxes and a cut in spending, to deal with Ireland's budget deficit. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan also said an independent agency would take over banks' bad assets to try and restore lending. His forecast for 2009 was also revised down sharply. He expects it to contract by 8% this year, down from 3% in 2008. Dublin is being forced to deal with a deepening recession while being forced to correct the worst deficit in Europe.

Other Currencies - Highlights

Australia's Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has said that its leading indicator of employment fell to a negative 0.579 in April from a negative 0.336 in March - the 16th consecutive monthly decline. The indicator measures four weighted time-series variables: ANZ newspaper job ads, Dun & Bradstreet employment expectations, the Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index of economic activity survey and the Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment survey, with the first three of these four contributing to the indicator's decline in April.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is due to issue March employment data tomorrow. The jobless rate rose to 5.2% in February, up from 4.8% in January.