Political appointments calm euro for now

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Yesterday gave the markets the opportunity to take stock of the recent turmoil in financial and political circles and trade was less volatile as a result. The euro managed to erase some of its recent losses versus the USD, GBP and other crosses but will remain vulnerable in the short term. Good news from the political side of things has come from both Greece and Italy in the past 24hrs with potential succession sagas nipped swiftly in the bud. The long running favourite to take over in Greece, Lukas Papademos, has now become the interim PM in Greece through to elections due in mid-February while it seems that Mario Monti will likely take over from Silvio Berlusconi as the Italian PM.

Both are more “technocratic” than political in their makeup; Papademos used to be Vice President of the ECB while Monti is a well-respected economist and former European Commissioner. They know how to get things done in Europe and should bring some stability to their respective spheres of influence. I think the market will be happy if emphasis is now able to shift back to the relative economics of the problem as opposed to the intransigence of the political system and its participants. The Italian bond auction passed ok yesterday with all EUR5bn in 12m bills being sold the yield, The yield came in at 6.087% versus 3.570% at the previous sale on 11Oct, and although below 7%, is a significant increase. Yields in other Italian debt maturities came lower over the course of the day as the ECB maintained its bond buying programme but stepped it up a notch.

Dealing desk reports put the figure purchased at around EUR3.2bn, significantly more than the estimated EUR350m that was spent on Wednesday when Italian yields first went atmospheric. The focus will remain on the problems in Greece and Italy however the most common question in markets and in meetings is who is next? Some people are putting their money on France and, behind Greece, their debt was the worst performing globally yesterday. The spread of French debt over German, a typical measure of risk, rose to its highest level in euro-area history and rumours swirled that a debt downgrade was forthcoming. Standard & Poor’s in fact clarified that France’s credit rating is AAA, after sending a statement earlier to some clients that suggested the rating had been changed in error. An investigation is taking place into how it happened and the world has breathed a sigh of relief as a result.

My money, for what it’s worth, is on Belgium given their lack of a government and the markets’ focus on political stability. Any pain in Belgium will also be felt in France due to their entwined banking system unfortunately; Dexia was a canary in the mineshaft and not merely a lone damsel in distress. In the UK the Bank of England decision was the damp squib that everyone knew that it would be. No policy changes were announced with interest rates left at 0.5% and the asset purchase target at £275bn

The minutes of the previous MPC meeting showed that the committee understood that the UK recovery was under threat, from the lack of growth in Europe and elsewhere in the world and the effect that this will have on the banking system and liquidity. Focus within next week’s quarterly Inflation Report will be on the BoE’s outlook for the CPI taking into account the latest round of asset purchases. Today’s data calendar is relatively light with only UK producer prices at 09.30 and US consumer confidence at 14.55.

Indicative Rates Sell Buy
GBPEUR 1.1666 1.1694
GBPUSD 1.5921 1.5945
EURUSD 1.3629 1.3649
GBPJPY 123.27 123.55
GBPAUD 1.5706 1.5733
GBPNZD 2.0484 2.0511
GBPCAD 1.6243 1.6269
NZDUSD 0.7764 0.7786
GBPZAR 12.67 12.72
USDZAR 7.9504 7.9851
GBPPLN 5.1451 5.1740
EURJPY 105.55 105.80

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