Tag Archives: Canada

Interest Rates

Today (07/04/11) as expected the European Central Bank (ECB) has raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25% to 1.25%, the first such increase since July 2008. The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold for the 25th month at their historic low of 0.5% and the Bank’s Quantitative Easing Asset Purchase Programme remains at £200bn.

 The focus will now shift to the release of the minutes (due 20th April) of today’s BoE Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting to see if any further MPC members have been swayed to the rate hike camp. At the previous meeting in March, six members voted to keep rates on hold whilst three members voted for an increase in interest rates. The conflict between above target inflation coupled with weak economic growth making the Bank’s decision difficult. The market will also seek further clarity on the future direction of ECB interest rates as there had been some suggestions that the hike today may be the first of a gradual increase in ECB interest rates.

Typically, as a central bank increases interest rates their currency will appreciate as global investors seek a higher yielding currency. The widening interest rate differential between the BoE and ECB has been a major contributing factor to Sterling’s relative weakness against the Euro despite the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis.

Comparative World Interest Rates

Bank of Japan: 0.1%

Federal Reserve (USA): 0.25%

Swiss National Bank: 0.25%

Bank of England: 0.5%

Bank of Canada: 1%

European Central Bank: 1.25%

The Reserve Bank of Australia: 4.75%

People’s Bank of China: 6.06%

Brazil: 11.75%

Currency Update – Sterling pressured

Sterling has started March under significant pressure. Monday morning saw a dramatic fall in the value of Sterling with the Pound falling as low as 1.0930 against the Euro and 1.4780 against the US Dollar. There are currently a number of factors contributing to Sterling’s sharp fall in value.

Firstly, the latest opinion polls are suggesting that following the UK general election, it is likely that we could see a hung parliament with no single party holding a workable majority. This political uncertainty has troubled investors as they are concerned that any new government may not be able to implement the measures needed to cut UK debt and revive the economy.

Secondly, the Bank of England has hinted recently that we could see further expansion of its asset purchase scheme known as quantitative easing (QE). Any increase in QE would likely depreciate Sterling further.

Finally, Prudential’s $35.5B bid for the Asian life insurance unit of AIG has caused large flows out of Sterling into the US Dollar.

Following Monday’s sharp falls, the pound has recovered some of its losses. This morning, the release of the latest Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) suggested that the UK service sector is recovering at a stronger rate than many analysts had expected. This has helped push Sterling back above the psychological level of 1.50 against the US Dollar and above1.10 against the Euro.

In the Eurozone, the Greek government has approved a fresh austerity package of tax rises and spending cuts worth €4.8B. This has gone a small way to help convince financial markets that Greece can pay off its massive debts. The Euro has risen against the US Dollar and currently trades above 1.36.

Elsewhere, The Reserve Bank of Australia has hiked their cash interest rate by 0.25% to 4%. The Bank of Canada left rates on hold at 0.25%. However, the Bank of Canada’s accompanying statement showed that the Bank was more upbeat on the economic outlook. This has forced Sterling to a low of 1.6491 against the Australian Dollar and 1.5387 against the Canadian Dollar.

Both the Bank of England and the European Central bank meet tomorrow at 12:00 and 12:45 respectively. The markets will eagerly await any announcement from the Bank of England regarding QE and the European Central Bank’s latest economic forecasts.

With all the uncertainty regarding the general election, the Bank of England’s QE programme and the UK’s ability to tackle the deficit, it is likely that Sterling will remain under pressure for some time.

If you have any upcoming foreign exchange requirements, please do not hesitate to contact the dealing team to discuss how best to manage your currency requirements and eliminate currency risk.