Pound Sterling - UK Markets

A bank holiday in the UK yesterday saw sterling currency rates weaken against the euro. This morning the pound has recovered these gains, currently trading at 1.13 on the euro and 1.58 against the US dollar.

Last week's figures showed the UK economy contracted an unrevised 1.9% in the first quarter of 2009. This is largely due to a 5.9% drop in exports leading to significant contraction in the industrial production sector. Also last week the Standard and Poor's downgraded the UK sovereign credit rating based on the level of government debt as a proportion of GDP. These factors are responsible for the weak trend in Sterling at present as investors worry over government debt levels worldwide. This morning Virgin Atlantic announced it has doubled annual profits, despite rising oil prices and the recession. This is in contrast to British Airways who announced a GBP401 million pre-tax loss for the last year. There are no major announcements in the UK today.

US Dollar - US Markets

With US markets also closed for a public holiday yesterday the dollar lost ground against the euro overnight. This morning this has been recovered as the US currency rate climbed to 0.63 against the pound and 0.71 against the euro.

At present the underlying trend in US markets is negative as investors worry over government debt levels. While recent weeks have brought investors optimism based on recovery prospects, leading to gains in equities and currency exchange rates, the current focus on government debt levels is creating a sense of underlying nervousness in the market. With the Standard and Poor's last week downgrading the UK credit rating, other countries have now come under the international spotlight. The US budged deficit is also sizeable and this is affecting dollar sentiment. Consumer confidence figures are out in the US today.

Euro - European Markets

With US and UK markets closed for a bank holiday yesterday the euro advanced on both currencies. This morning, these gains have been trimmed as the pound and dollar recover against the single currency. At present, euro currency rates are weaker against the Australian and New Zealand dollar and little changed against the yen and US dollar.

European equities opened on a weak note this morning amid concerns over the North Korean missile tests and debt amongst European banking institutions. Export levels in Germany plunged 9.7% in the first quarter and the economy as a whole contracted 3.8%. Figures released this morning show new industrial orders for the European Monetary Union have fallen by -26.9%. Although significant, this is an improvement on the last quarter and shows the pace of decline is easing. The German consumer price index is out tomorrow.

Other Currencies - Highlights

South Africa's economy contracted by -6.4% in the first quarter, sending the entire economy into recession as mining and construction were scaled back due to the global recession. This follows a -1.8% contraction in the fourth quarter of 2008, reflecting a sharp downturn in economic activity. This news snapped a decade of growth for South Africa and weeks of gains for the rand, which weakened on the back of the negative figures.

The New Zealand dollar is likely to experience some volatility this week with the release of the annual budget. This could impact on credit ratings also which seem to be in the international spotlight at present.