Sterling has taken a beating, losing 2% to the dollar

23 February, 2016

FX News Today

Sterling has taken a beating, losing 2% to the dollar, while the currency’s six-month implied volatility shot to 12%, the highest since Nov 2011. It’s all about Brexit, with the debate now very much in full swing following the weekend announcement that the in-out referendum will be held on Jun-23, which in turn followed PM Cameron’s obtainment from Brussels of revised terms of EU membership. The big kicker was London mayor Boris Johnson, who yesterday detonated a bombshell of headlines by announcing that he will be backing the ‘out’ campaign.

Moody’s warned UK about Brexit “economic costs”, which it says will be greater than the “economic benefits, “and, in the event, said it would consider assigning a negative outlook on its Aa1 rating of UK sovereign debt unless the country “managed to negotiate a new trade agreement with the EU that preserves at least some of the trade benefits of EU membership.” Moody’s warned of a “prolonged period of uncertainty.” Cable’s Jan-22 low at 1.4202 looks more than likely to be breached, which would put sterling at the lowest levels since March 2009.

UK CBI industrial trends unexpectedly slumped in February to a -17ВВ reading in the headline total orders reading, down from -15 in the month prior and off the median forecast for an improvement to -12. Among the components, export orders lifted to -19 from -22, but output expectations fell to +11 from +14 and selling prices dipped to -3 from -1. Sterling dipped to fresh lows in the wake of the data, though selling pressure is more to do with prevailing Brexit worries.

US Markit PMI fell to 51.0 in the flash February manufacturing PMIВВ from 52.4 in January. It’s the lowest reading since October 2012 and was at 55.1 a year ago. The new order index slid to 51.7 from 53.6, and the order backlog reading dropped to its lowest since September 2009. The report is another reflection of the erosion in manufacturing. Indeed, Markit reported the slowdown was “overwhelmingly linked” to the softer underlying demand patterns, weaker business sentiment, alongside uncertainty regarding the general economic outlook. Weather was cited by only a small minority of participants.

US Chicago National Activity index rebounded to 0.28 in JanuaryВВ from a revised -0.34 in December (was -0.22) and -0.39 in November (was -0.36). This breaks a string of 5 negative prints, and is the highest since July. Today’s data brought the 3-month moving average up to -0.15 from -0.30 (revised from -0.24) and -0.20 in November (revised from -0.19). This is a 3rd tier report that won’t really impact the markets.

Main Macro Events Today

German GDP:ВВ second release is expected to confirm the Q4 output at 0.3% (Q/Q) and 1.3% (Y/Y).

German IFO:ВВ sentiment index is expected to come in at 106.7, slightly below the 107.3 in January. January’s reading was a disappointment and was the weakest number since February last year. December was revise down to 108.6 from 108.7. Global concerns about the outlook for the world economy and falling oil prices clearly have hit German confidence.

US Existing Home Sales:ВВ January existing home sales are out Tuesday and should reveal a 0.7% headline increase to 5.500 mln (median 5.355 mln) clip for the month from 5.460 mln in December and 4.760 mln in November. The big November-December swing was driven by the implementation of new “know before you sign” regulation that pushed some November closings into December. There is some downside risk to the January headline as that effect unwinds.

US Consumer Confidence:ВВ February consumer confidence is out Tuesday and should reveal an increase to 98.5 (median 97.5) from 98.1 in January. The first release on Michigan Sentiment for February had the headline falling to 90.7 from 92.0 in January but the IBD/TIPP Poll for the month improved to 47.8 from 47.3 and the Bloomberg Weekly Consumer Comfort survey is poised to average a slightly higher 44.4 from 44.3 in January.

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