Pound Sterling - UK Markets

The Pound is up 0.6% on the Dollar this morning, trading at 1.45 on the back of increased risk appetite after Wall Street gains yesterday. The Pound is also up against the Euro, Yen and Australian Dollar, trading at 1.13, 141 and 2.22 respectively.

UK GDP figures out this morning show the economy contracted by -1.5% in the fourth quarter of 2008. However despite this, the Pound has strengthened as a result of positive market sentiment in the US. Minutes from a meeting of EU officials yesterday showed concern over the ‘financial stability' of the British economy following the rapid demise of the Pound late last year. The Pound has fallen 23% against the Euro as a major trading partner, this weakness is a concern for the Eurozone. Exceptionally high volatility over recent months is also undermining financial stability. UK statistics yesterday showed mortgage approvals down 40% on this time last year and unemployment continues to rise. However the CBI Distributive Trades survey was less negative than expected and the retail sales index rose from -47 last month to -25 this month due to more positive sales figures. The Bank of England MPC meets next Thursday and market expectations are for a further 0.5% rate reduction. Reductions beyond 1% are regarded as less significant and quantitative easing is likely to be the path of the government over the coming months. There is no further data in the UK today.

US Dollar - US Markets

Mixed results for the Dollar overnight as increased risk appetite led to a redistribution of investor funds. The Dollar weakened against the Euro and Pound to trade at 0.77 and 0.68 but retained gains against some of its Asian and European currency partners.

Head of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke quelled fears over the state of the US banking system yesterday in a speech noting that nationalisation of major banks would not be necessary. Bernanke stressed the role of government as supervisor rather than shareholder and Wall Street posted its largest daily gains in a month. President Obama also addressed the nation, detailing aspects of an ambitious government plan which includes both stimulating and greening US industry, cutting taxes and halving the US budget deficit within the next five years. Despite the inevitable criticism for the over ambitious nature of the plan, stock and equity markets gained confidence, improving global risk appetite. Also yesterday the Washington Post survey showed US consumer confidence plunged 10 points to a record low in February, on the same day as the German IFO revealed the same results in the Eurozone. US Home sales figures are out later today.

Euro - European Markets

The Euro has gained against the Dollar to trade at 1.28 and is up against the Yen as well as its European currency partners.

Stocks in Europe and Asia advanced following news from the US that the government would not have to nationalise major banks. Shares in Deutsche Bank and PNB Paribas, Germany and France's largest banks both surged more than 7%. German GDP figures released this morning show the economy contracted -2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2008, reflecting the rapid deterioration of the European economy. This takes annual growth to 1.6% a figure that was largely in line with market expectations. The ECB has strongly hinted at a further interest rate reduction in March. The German consumer price index and unemployment figures are out tomorrow.

Other Currencies - Highlights

The Australian and New Zealand Dollars rallied overnight, following comments from Ben Bernanke which served to strengthen risk appetite internationally. The Australasian currencies continue to shadow US equities which remain the primary determinant of market sentiment. 

Japanese exports have plunged 45.7% in January, taking them to the lowest figure in 10 years as a result of reduced demand from Japan's major trading partners. The decline was fuelled by a 53% drop in exports to the US, 47% to the Eurozone and similar steep declines to China and other Asian economies. The Canadian Dollar is up to 1.24 against the US while the Swiss Franc is down on the Dollar, a further symptom of increased appetite for risk.