Stick or Twist

The Euro is slightly down this morning as remnants of the political scandal that emerged in Spain last month continue to linger. Allegations published in Spanish Newspaper El Pais last month, suggested that from 1997 onwards, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy received regular payments of €25,000 that were hidden from tax authorities. Although these are, at present, only allegations, the mere suggestion of such conduct is enough to worry markets. Should these allegations be proved to be true then we could see sentiment towards Spanish assets turn considerably negative, which would inevitably hurt the Euro.

Additional uncertainty is also likely to grow within the Eurozone as we approach the Italian elections at the end of this month, especially should the gap close further between front runner Pier Luigi Bersani and Berlusconi’s PDL party. This uncertainty is likely to have contributed to the tapered advance of the Euro this week, as its unrelenting strengthening seems to have now been somewhat restricted. The Euro has dropped off against both Sterling and the Greenback this morning, with the Pound having risen by nearly half a cent so far today against the Euro, and the pair is currently trading at 1.1575. The Euro has similarly dropped off against the Dollar, falling to a daily low of 1.3513 this morning, before holding, and slightly recovering to its current level of 1.3530.

Markets are likely to be trading relatively flat this afternoon with little economic data due out and only UK House Price data having been released this morning, showing prices declined in January. However the main driver behind decreased volatility today is likely to be the fact that market participants are holding their current positions ahead of the ECB and BOE interest rate decisions due to be made tomorrow afternoon. Whilst both rates are expected to remain unchanged, should there be any adjustment, this could well provoke substantial movement in the Pound or the Euro.
In yesterday’s blog we recalled comments made by Luxembourg Prime Minister last month that the Euro was then already ‘dangerously high’. It would appear that such concerns are growing throughout the Euro Zone regarding the current strength of the Euro. French President Francois Hollande commented yesterday that “the Eurozone must, through its heads of state and government, decide on a medium-term exchange rate”. It is likely that Mario Draghi will face questions regarding this issue at the ECB press conference tomorrow and any suggestion of controls being placed on the Euro could weaken the currency considerably.

Mark Webster