The headline US durable goods orders report was stronger than expected with a 1.8% increase for January, but the figure was inflated by aircraft orders and underlying sales declined 0.2% on the month following a revised 0.9% gain for January. Pending home sales data was weaker than expected with a 2.8% decline for January which pushed annual growth to 12- month lows. The Euro rallied to highs around 1.0630 after the US data as the dollar faded slightly.
Dallas Fed President Kaplan stated that the Fed should increase interest rates in the near future which helped boost speculation of a rate hike in March with futures markets indicating the chances of a move had increased to around 50%. The shift helped underpin the dollar and the Euro retreated below 1.0600 and held just below this level on Tuesday.
The latest Euro-zone money supply growth data was in line with consensus expectations as growth slowed slightly to 4.9% from 5.0% previously while private loan growth was slightly stronger for the month at 2.2% from 2.0% previously.
Euro-zone economic confidence edged higher for February to the highest level since 2011 which underpinned growth hopes.
The latest Opinionway opinion poll for the French Presidential election registered a small improvement for Macron which provided net Euro support as concerns surrounding a potential Le Pen victory faded slightly.
For the second month running, UK retail sales data was notably weaker than expected with a 0.3% decline in volumes for January from a revised 2.1% decline the previous month and expectations of a 0.9% monthly gain.The annual increase slowed sharply to 1.5% from 4.3% in December.
The sharp increase in fuel prices had an important impact in curbing volumes and the data overall will maintain overall expectations that higher prices during 2017 will have an important impact in undermining sales growth which will undermine the wider economic growth trends.
Sterling weakened further after the data with the Euro strengthening to the 0.8580 area while the UK currency retreated to lows below 1.2400 on reduced expectations that the Bank of England would tighten policy.
There was some resilience at lower levels and the UK currency held above 1.2400 on Monday as the Euro retreated to below 0.8550.
The latest CFTC weekly data recorded a decline in the net long dollar position to the lowest level since October 11th as uncertainty continued to undermine long dollar positions with the main shift a further increase in long positions in commodity currencies.
The dollar nudged slightly higher on Monday and the Euro again tested support towards the 1.0600 area.
ECB minutes from January’s meeting confirmed that the central bank would look through increases in inflation triggered solely by a surge in energy prices and would concentrate on whether there was any evidence of second-round inflation effects.
The ECB expected that overall inflation pressures would remain muted despite an important element of uncertainty surrounding developments in wages and there was a further pledge to maintain a very accommodative monetary policy.
Sterling maintained a solid tone against the dollar ahead of the US open on Thursday, but continued to hit resistance above the 1.2500 level. The Euro regained the 0.8500 level which helped underpin confidence with a further advance to the 0.8550 area as Sterling overall lost support with markets still wary over the risk of further medium-term losses. A slightly more defensive attitude surrounding risk appetite curbed Sterling support, although underlying selling interest above 1.2500 against the dollar was the more important factor.
Sources suggested that the government was looking to trigger Article 50 around the time of the March 9-10 EU Summit and the Brexit debate will sharpen again next week when parliament returns from recess. The latest retail sales data is due on Friday and another weak release would maintain expectations that there will be an underlying slowdown in spending as Sterling consolidated around 1.2500 against the dollar.
The US data remained robust with initial jobless claims increasing only slightly to 239,000 in the latest week from 234,000 previously which still indicated a strong labour market with layoffs remaining at low levels. There was a small decline in housing starts to an annual rate of 1.25mn from 1.28mn previously while permits rose to 1.29mn from 1.23mn.
There was also a strong reading for the February Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey which increased to 43.3 from 23.6 and the highest reading for over 30 years, although the prices indices declined slightly on the month.
Fed Vice Chair Fischer backed Yellen’s stance on policy with expectations of further increase in rates and markets will continue to monitor comments in order to assess the potential for a rate hike at the March meeting. The dollar pushed higher immediately after the data, but was again unable to gain any traction and the Euro resisted any significant selling. Overall, the Euro rallied to the 1.0680 area as the dollar’s trade-weighted index declined by around 0.60%.
UK consumer prices declined 0.5% in January and, although the year-on-year rate increased to 1.8% from 1.6% which was the highest rate since June 2014, this was slightly lower than the consensus forecast of a sharper increase to 1.9%.
There was significant upward pressure on transport costs which was offset by a decline in clothing prices.
The data will dampen expectations that the Bank of England may need to tighten monetary policy more aggressively to curb inflation, although there was a larger than expected increase in producer prices which suggests underlying pressures may be building.
Sterling weakened significantly following the inflation data with the UK currency moving back below the 1.2500 level as the Euro moved to the 0.8520 area, although gilts reversed initial gains.
The UK currency was resilient at lower levels and regained support during the New York session as the Euro retreated back below 0.8500. The latest labour-market data will be released on Wednesday with a particular focus on the earnings data.
The US NFIB small-business confidence index edged higher to 105.9 for February from 105.8 previously while there was a stronger than expected reading for producer prices with a 0.6% monthly gain.
In her prepared comments to the Senate Banking Committee, Fed Chair Yellen reiterated that it was dangerous to wait too long before raising interest rates given the risk that disruptive interest rates could then be required which could push the economy into recession.
According to Yellen, the FOMC expects the labour market to strengthen further with inflation rising gradually towards 2%.
Overall, she expected further gradual interest rates to be warranted and that the committee will evaluate whether further adjustment of the Fed Funds rate is needed at forthcoming meetings.
The comments were seen as relatively hawkish with no move to rule out a March hike with Yellen stating that all meetings are live.
Futures markets moved to price in around a 35% chance of three rate hikes for 2017 from just below 30% ahead of the testimony.
The dollar gained ground with the Euro dipping to five-week lows in the 1.0570 area and the US currency held firm on Wednesday.
Euro-zone GDP growth was revised down to 0.4% in the updated flash Q4 reading from the provisional 0.5% which will tend to dampen expectations that the Euro-zone economy is gaining momentum.
There was also a weaker than expected reading for the German ZEW investor sentiment index, although the overall market impact was limited.