Tag Archives: Greece

European Sovereign Debt Crisis

The European sovereign debt crisis continues to pose a significant threat to the recovery of the Euro-zone and to the wider global economy. The €109bn bail-out agreed in July for Greece may have averted an immediate significant Greek default and contagion spreading to Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain but the Euro-zone continues to face significant challenges. In fact, despite Greece’s significant austerity measures, figures released by the Greek government over the weekend project that the 2011 deficit will be at 8.5% of GDP, well short of the 7.6% target agreed to secure the first bailout. Greece needs to secure the next tranche from the bailout fund of €8bn or it will run out of cash this month. Therefore for the time being Greece will remain firmly in the spotlight.

The ongoing uncertainty over the economic recovery in the UK and Euro-zone has caused some uncertainty in the outlook in the Pound -Euro (GBPEUR) exchange rate. So far the Euro has shown a surprising amount of resilience to the European sovereign debt crisis. Against the Pound the Euro appreciated to a EURGBP high of 0.9083 (GBPEUR 1.1010) at the start of July before falling back to 0.8705 (GBPEUR 1.1488) in the middle of July and settling around 0.8750 (GBPEUR 1.1429) in early August. Throughout September the EURGBP exchange rate traded between 0.8527 (GBPEUR 1.1727) and 0.8795 (GBPEUR 1.1370). The threat of further Quantitative Easing from the Bank of England temporarily weighing on Sterling before Greece once again took the spotlight. Today 3rd October the rate trades in the region of 0.8585 (GBPEUR 1.1645).

In Europe despite the debt crisis, the European Central Bank has increased interest rates to 1.50% compared to the Bank of England’s 0.50%. The full 1% interest rate differential advantage the Euro holds compared to Sterling, coupled with the threat of further Quantitative Easing from the Bank of England has so far prevented the Pound from appreciating significantly against the Euro. Currently we are hopeful that the Pound will eventually make some further progress against the Euro towards 1.18-1.20. However, the fragility of the UK economic recovery and the threat of further Quantitative Easing does pose a threat to this view. We expect to continue to see increased levels of volatility in the foreign exchange markets.

Please do not hesitate to contact Currency Matters on telephone 01695 581 669 to discuss how you can save money and eliminate risk when conducting your foreign currency exchange.

Sterling falls following dovish Bank of England

The Pound has depreciated this morning (22/06/11) following the release of the latest minutes from the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). The minutes indicated that the Bank of England is less likely to raise interest rates this year, which makes Sterling less attractive to investors seeking higher yielding currencies*.  

The minutes show that out of the nine MPC members only two members voted for an interest rate hike, whilst seven members voted to keep interest rates unchanged at their record low for the 27th consecutive month. This was a change from the previous MPC meeting in May when three members had voted for a rate hike. The changing makeup of the MPC since Andrew Sentance’s departure after May’s meeting and the appointment of Ben Broadbent, who voted for a hold in June, points to a more dovish MPC. Andrew Sentance was consistently the most hawkish member of the MPC, being the first member to call for a 0.25% rate hike consistently since June 2010 and voting for a 0.50% hike at the last four meetings.

Whilst the Bank of England kept its Quantitative Easing Asset Purchase Programme on hold at £200 billion, the idea of further Quantitative Easing was floated by some members should the downside risks to inflation realise, further undermining Sterling’s value.

In the Eurozone, the Greek government won a critical vote of confidence, paving the way for the next crucial vote in which MPs will be asked to approve a €28 billion package of tax increases and spending cuts by June 28th. Laws implementing the reforms will need to be passed before the next extraordinary meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on the 3rd July in order to secure the next tranche of €12 billion of the EU and IMF’s €110 billion bailout package. It is essential for Greece to receive the €12 billion emergency loan in order to keep up with payments to her creditors totalling €340 billion. Without the €12 billion needed for Greece to make its debt repayments, Greece will likely default.

This evening the US Federal Reserve will announce its latest interest rate decision. Interest rates are expected to stay unchanged at their current level of 0-0.25%. However, tonight’s meeting also coincides with the expiry of the Federal Reserve’s current Quantitative Easing programme. The following press conference will be analysed for any suggestions of further Quantitative Easing in the future.

Currently Sterling is looking particularly vulnerable and further falls cannot be ruled out. Ongoing uncertainty surrounding the global economic recovery and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe means it is likely we will continue to see high levels of volatility in the foreign exchange market. Please do not hesitate to contact the dealing team for further information or to discuss how best to eliminate currency risk.

*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: 12.25%

Currency Update – UK CPI

The Pound has strengthened this morning (20/04) following higher than expected UK inflation data. The official measure of inflation known as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) beat market expectations coming in at 3.4% year on year. As inflation remains above target it means it is more likely that at some point the Bank of England will have to start reversing its programme of Quantitative Easing and increase interest rates which have been held at a historic low of 0.5% since March 2009.

However, the timing of any changes in monetary policy remains highly uncertain as it is likely the Bank of England will want to further secure the UK’s economic recovery from recession before we see any monetary tightening. 

The deemed threat of a hung parliament following a further narrowing in the opinion polls also adds to the uncertainty around the future direction of the Pound.

Elsewhere, the cost of Greek debt continues to climb and is putting increased pressure on the Euro. The interest rate charged by investors for ten year Greek bonds hit 7.6%, the highest level since the Euro was introduced. Germany, viewed as the safest European economy is only charged at 3%.

The financial markets will now await the outcome of the next meeting in Athens, now due on Wednesday following the disruption to flights, between officials to agree the terms of the joint European and IMF rescue package. Full details of the plan, including the rate of interest have yet to be finalised.

The following rates are shown for indicative purposes only. Please note the rate you are able to achieve will depend on the amount of currency being purchased.

 EURUSD: 1.35 

GBPEUR: 1.14

GBPUSD: 1.53

If you would like to discuss any upcoming foreign exchange requirements, please do not hesitate to contact the dealing team on 01695 581 669.

Currency News

Last week the currency markets were firmly focused on the Euro with the fiscal problems of Greece and also Spain and Portugal taking the headlines. Speculation built throughout the week that the other European Monetary Union states, led by Germany, would come to Greece’s aid. However, markets were clearly disappointed that whilst a rescue package was agreed in principle, European leaders failed to set out a comprehensive package.

The Euro was also pressured following the release of disappointing Eurozone GDP data. Total Eurozone 4th quarter 2009 GDP expanded by a mere 0.1%, the market had been expecting growth of 0.3%. Noticeably, German GDP (the largest European economy) failed to expand at all, whilst Italian GDP slipped back into contraction. Spain, hit by a housing market collapse and official unemployment greater than 20% remained in recession.

As a result, the single currency fell to a low of 1.3531 against the US Dollar, its lowest level since May 2009. The US Dollar, viewed as a safe haven, appreciated across the board as investors took flight from risk as stocks and gold prices tumbled. The Pound fell to 1.5534 against the US Dollar but rose past 1.15 against the Euro.

 In the UK the Bank of England released its Quarterly Inflation Report. The report was markedly pessimistic about the UK economy, revising its growth forecasts down. UK Interest rates are expected to stay low for a protracted period of time as growth remains weak and inflation is expected to fall back below the 2% target after initially spiking higher to 3%. Moreover, the Bank of England failed to rule out the possibility of extending its asset purchase scheme know as Quantitative Easing. Consequently, the Pound is expected to stay weak for some time. However, some gains could be made against the Euro, depending on how the Greek bailout develops. Sterling’s 25% depreciation should eventually help the UK economy grow as our exports become more competitive.

 Elsewhere, the Australian Dollar rallied following better than expected employment data with GBPAUD falling to 1.76. In China concerns over potential asset bubbles, led officials to order banks to increase their levels of reserves in a bid to cool the amount of lending.