By Andrew Wilkinson at IB:
German Chancellor Merkel defended the trust placed in the hands of the national government by the German people today by ensuring that the government of Greece has to seek financial aid from the IMF and not its European partners alone. Proving today that a friend in need is a pest, Ms. Merkel called for a tougher set of rules in the future to punish those who dared engage in “trickery” concerning their budgetary stance. She called upon the EU to stand hand-in-hand with the IMF in providing last-minute financial aid. The euro is coming off a midweek depression not seen in 10-months – perhaps on profit-taking, yet investors holding a large amount of short positions don’t seem to be in a particular rush to clear the decks.
Euro – The euro reached a low Wednesday at $1.3284 before reaching $1.3371 in Thursday morning trading. It also rallied sharply against the Japanese yen to stand at ¥122.89.
Merkel’s denial of stand-alone assistance to Greece is as a result of its failure to abide by European treaties and national law. The impact of this failure is to dilute the value of the single European currency. By accepting the erosion of the euro now, Ms. Merkel is donning a hair-shirt as a self-punishment for the collective failure to administer the regard for those treaties and laws. But by doing so today, she might ensure that the risk of a further failure in the future is minimized by forcing the observation of both treaty and law by larger members, to the longer-term wellbeing of the euro.
U.S. Dollar – The dollar is lower today, but having won several Olympic gold medals with yesterday’s performance, its slip today is understandable. Nothing goes up in a straight line forever. Data on Thursday showed ongoing improvement in the U.S. labor market with a 14,000 decline in the initial claims data to 442,000 for the lowest reading since December 2008. Continuing claims, while revised higher for the previous week, also showed a 54,000 decline.
British pound – There was little in the pre-election budget to startle traders yesterday although the pound did find its feet following a rather strong reading of retail sales data for February. The numbers showed a 2.1% monthly increase to boost the annual sales gain to 3.5% despite a revision to January data showing a bigger slide in spending than previously thought. In conjunction with recent positive trends in labor market data the British economy is shown under a better light these days. The pound rose to buy $1.4928 against the dollar and advanced to a one-month high against the single currency at 89.40 pence.
The Chancellor yesterday refused to make any cuts to public spending while forecasting that the public deficit would decline from £167 billion this year to £89 billion by 2014.
Canadian dollar – The speech presented by Bank of Canada Mark Carney midweek crystallized the conditional pledge that delivers Canada its low interest rate. He acknowledged that since the central bank’s last review in January that both inflation and growth had surprised to the upside, which leaves a threat to the profile for inflation. It’s looking increasingly likely that the Bank will be the first G7 nation to raise interest rates by the end of June. The Canadian dollar added almost one penny from a midweek low at 97.25 U.S. cents to reach 98.20 cents this morning.
Japanese yen – The yen fought back after a massive rally by the dollar on Wednesday when it reached an intraday peak of ¥92.40. This morning the yen rallied to ¥91.78 before the dollar was further inspired by jobless claims data sending it back to ¥92.18.
Aussie dollar – The Assistant Governor at Australia’s Reserve Bank noted once again that the domestic economy was still benefitting from a below average rate of interest given the above average pace of growth, which officials predict will be maintained for several years ahead. Having reached a low midweek of 90.66 U.S. cents the Aussie rebounded to 91.33 cents Thursday.