Stressful week all round
This week has been stressful for US bankers and Chelsea fans alike, as both have been subject to the most crucial of tests. Yet while the results of "stress tests" will leave some investors aggrieved, it is unlikely they will be as outraged as Chelsea fans after they came to the end of the road in the Championship League.
This week the bullish run in equity markets has continued as confidence in global growth prospects grows. Increasingly positive economic data, combined with receding fears over swine flu have boosted investor confidence and led to a greater distribution of funds outside the safe haven currencies. The Australian dollar and South African rand have been major beneficiaries with the Australian dollar reaching a 12-year high against the pound on the back of improved commodity prices.
After a bank holiday on Monday, UK markets hit the ground running with the FTSE surging to a four-month high within hours of opening on Tuesday. Throughout the week, equity markets went from strength to strength as improved global growth prospects fuelled risk appetite which translated into gains for most of the perceived "riskier" currencies.
Statistics from the British Banking Association show lending to small businesses increased by GBP270 million in March and the service sector PMI climbed to 48.7, an improvement from 45.5 the previous month. The Bank of England decided to keep interest rates on hold at 0.5% in line with market expectations and opted to expand their quantitative easing program by another GBP50 billion.
This news, combined with the market opinion that the UK is less deeply mired in recession than the eurozone has benefitted the pound. Early in the week, Sterling touched on a four-month high against the US dollar and has settled at a support level above 1.50 and 1.12 against the dollar and euro respectively.
In the US this week, headlines have been dominated by the pending results of "stress tests" on 19 of the major financial institutions. Recovery in the banking sector remains crucial to the economy as a whole and the stress tests are designed to test the solvency of the major US financial institutions. Ten of the 19 banks tested are in need of additional capital with Bank of America posting the worst results. Treasury Secretary Geithner has reassured markets that none of the banks are at risk of insolvency and this quelled investor fears, preventing a rise in risk aversion. Pending home sales and construction spending have both increased in March, leading to further speculation of green shoots in the US property market.
The euro has also been trading at firmer levels on the back of improved market confidence, despite the fact that green shoots do not quite extend to the eurozone. Economic figures here have been slightly more flat than those in the UK. Retail sales stalled at -0.6% in March and the merger between Fiat and General Motors could potentially threaten over 10,000 jobs. The ECB also voted to reduce interest rates to 1% in line with market expectations and agreed to EUR60 billion worth of quantitative easing to increase the supply of money in the economy.
Improved market confidence has also aided the distribution of funds throughout the eastern European currencies and economists are predicting zloty could be a major benefactor if the upward momentum continues. Zloty has declined in value by almost one third as investors dumped currencies they perceived as risky during market turmoil in late 2008. With the prospect of global growth becoming more apparent, zloty could be set to recover some of this ground. This week Poland has secured a USD20.6 billion loan from the IMF and the Czech central bank slashed interest rates to an historic low of 1.5%.
Market activity this week is beginning to show the emergence of a different picture. The bullish trend in equities has been sustained for around eight weeks now and the upward trend in sterling continues. Evidence that the slow down is slowing down in the world's major economies has increased the distribution of funds away from the two safe havens. If economic sentiment keeps improving, we may see trends in currency exchange rates diversify rather than slavishly following risk.
However, information is still the most crucial aspect when it comes to currency transfer. Whether for specific announcements or general currency trends, knowing what is happening in the market can make a significant difference to your investment. The 12-year high the Australian dollar touched on this week against the pound is evidence of this. By letting your dealer know your currency requirements they can monitor the markets on your behalf ensuring you get the best possible deal when transferring your currency abroad.
Have a good weekend!