The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice. If you are unsure of any of the terminology used you should seek financial advice. Remember that the value of investments can go down as well as up, and could be worth less than what was paid in. The information is based on our understanding in March 2019.
For those Numerologists out there, the numbers 3 and 2 have appeared all too frequently and a little subversively in the news over the past five days, as yet another tumultuous week for the Prime Minister characterised the week that was.
As Theresa May’s chances of securing an extension from the EU to get her Brexit deal over the line waxed and waned, so did sterling. Tuesday saw the pound touch $1.33 before slipping back through to linger around $1.32 for the remainder of the week. It seems that although the Prime Minister might not have had time to organise a third Commons vote before the 29 March deadline, as long as the worst-case scenario for markets of a hard Brexit is avoided, sterling may enjoy some support.
Despite the Brexit backdrop, the FTSE 100 enjoyed a seven-day winning streak by Tuesday, as investors piled into often less volatile, multinational companies. The index was led higher by retailers such as Ocado and Sainsbury’s, the former hitting an all-time high after showing double digit growth. Sainsbury’s enjoyed a good run after they had agreed to deliver £1 billion of annual price cuts in an attempt to salvage their proposed merger with Walmart-owned Asda.
In a week where the Bank of England held rates steady, their actions seemed more than justified as inflation remained below their target of 2%. Released on Wednesday, CPI data showed that inflation had crept up to 1.9% from 1.8% last month, spurred on by a modest rise in food prices and recreational costs. The numbers were still encouraging for analysts as Average Earnings Data, released on Tuesday, showed a rise of 3.4% up from 3.2% last month, far outstripping inflation.
Across the Atlantic
The US Fed made a U-turn on expected policy after coming out with a more dovish statement. Policymakers voted to maintain rates, and changed their 2019 outlook from the two predicted increases in December to none at all. Reasons for the change in policy was a result of slowing economic activity on the back of a reduction in household spending and fixed investment in the first quarter. The news of a more dovish US Fed led government bond yields lower across the globe, with the 10-year German Bund yield turning negative.
The week drew to a close with Theresa May securing an extension in Brussels, having been granted at least another two weeks to formulate a solution that suits all parties. If Mrs May does get her deal through Parliament, that date will be pushed back to 22 May, giving time to pass the necessary legislation.
If you were wondering what the extension is to get through to Brussels, unsurprisingly Belgium’s dialing code is 32.
As we enter the final days of March, what was meant to be a week focusing on the UK’s divorce from the EU, is now likely to be all about events on the other side of the Atlantic.
The world’s largest economy is due to release a raft of economic data during the beginning of the week, including Building Permit numbers, Housing Starts and Crude Oil inventories. Perhaps the most helpful in allowing us to gauge the strength of the US economy however, will be Consumer Confidence numbers, released on Tuesday. The survey itself asks about 5,000 households to rate the relative level of current and future economic conditions, including the ease of getting a job, satisfaction over wages, as well as their overall economic situation. Financial confidence is the bedrock of any economy with the relative safety consumers feel in their jobs having a direct correlation with how much they spend, accounting for the majority of overall economic activity.
As we carry on the Brexit countdown, the UK’s Current Account balance is revealed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday. The overall figure will be the difference in value between imported and exported goods and services during the previous quarter. A rising account surplus should indicate that foreign nations are buying more of the UK’s products than we are importing from them. Analysts will be hoping for some positive numbers given that the last two readings were both negative.