Bank chiefs face more questions
Pound Sterling - UK Markets
A report released by the Office for National Statistics says that the UK public sector borrowed more than expected as central government tax revenue fell sharply on the year and spending continued to rise.
The UK public sector borrowed £9bn in February, a steep increase from £1.1bn a year earlier. Expectations for net borrowing were around £7.7bn and the reported level is the highest February borrowing figure since records began in 1993.
A report from the Council of Mortgage Lenders says that the slump in mortgage lending continued in February with gross lending down by 60% on February 2008. Lending, at £9.9bn, was 15% lower than in January, and was the lowest figure for any month since February 2001. The CML said its members' ability to lend was drying up because too many savers were choosing to put their money in National Savings policies. Mortgage rationing has led to house sales falling by more than half.
US Dollar - US Markets
The Federal Reserve has said it will buy almost $1.2trn worth of debt to help boost lending and promote economic recovery. The Fed said it would start buying long-term government debt and expand purchases of mortgage-related debt.
The size of the move has stunned investors, and caused the Dow Jones stock index to jump almost 200 points. It is hoped that the measures will boost mortgage lending and the struggling housing market by lowering interest rates on mortgages and other forms of consumer debt.
The news caused a mammoth drop for the US Dollar. The greenback experienced its third biggest one-day decline yesterday since daily pricing began back in 1970, bringing a swift end to the rally that had pushed the Dollar to the highest levels since 2006. The greenback ended the day down against both the Euro and the Pound, and reached a three-week low against the Canadian Dollar.
Euro - European Markets
According to the Dutch National Bureau for Statistics, Dutch consumers are more pessimistic in March compared to a month earlier. The Dutch consumer confidence index stood at -34 in March, falling from February's reading of -30. The bureau added that consumers have never been so pessimistic about the economy.
The bureau also released a report showing that the Dutch unemployment rate was 4.1% in the three months to February 2009, up from 3.9% in the previous three-month period, marking the third such period in a row in which unemployment has increased.
Other Currencies - Highlights
Excluding the Yen, all of the ten most-active Asian currencies have strengthened against the US Dollar. The Yuan rose to its strongest level this year, as the People's Bank of China set the reference rate at the highest level in more than three months.
Meanwhile, analysts are predicting that the Indian Rupee will fall beyond record lows in the coming months, as the Reserve Bank of India focuses on supporting the government's spending measures and attempts to stifle a market sell-off that has driven the yield curve to its steepest levels in 11 years.