EUR Back Under Pressure as the ECB cites growing risks to the economy

Jan. 24, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – The year’s first ECB Day got off to a soggy start for the euro which slipped to three-week lows against its U.S. rival. By contrast, the greenback enjoyed broad gains with Europe’s weak economy dominating the spotlight. Across the board gains lifted the U.S. dollar versus counterparts from Japan, Britain and Canada. Emerging markets were generally lower amid persistent concerns about a slowing world economy. As expected, the ECB left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at zero with markets now waiting on an 8:30 a.m. ET press conference by the central bank president, Mario Draghi. Ahead of the ECB’s first announcement of the year, Germany reported that its influential manufacturing sector unexpectedly contracted in January, which pointed to the bloc’s slowdown stretching into the new year. Also in focus today will be weekly data on U.S. jobless claims which are forecast to increase, albeit from historically low levels.




The Aussie dollar sank to three-week lows despite bullish jobs data from Down Under. Instead, the Aussie took its main cue from a move by one of Australia’s top banks to raise mortgage rates as it contends with rising funding costs. With the nation’s housing market cooling, higher mortgage rates could hasten a local interest rate cut from 1.50%, an already record low level. With borrowing rates dominating the Aussie conversation, it overshadowed jobs data that showed employers added 21,600 jobs in December, a larger than expected amount that pushed unemployment down by a notch to 5%.




The euro fell to 2019 lows after the ECB left interest rates unchanged and acknowledged that risks facing the 19-nation economy had intensified. ECB President Mario Draghi reiterated that the central bank expected to keep interest rate low through the summer, maybe long if necessary. The fact that Mr. Draghi expressed greater concern over the bloc’s economic health suggested a later rather than sooner rate hike. The prospects of lower rates for longer is negative for the euro but perhaps somewhat less so with the Fed not expected to boost borrowing rates any time soon.




Sterling’s weekslong run ran into resistance which coaxed the U.K. unit lower. The pound scaled 10-week highs this week as growing expectations that Britain might delay its departure from the EU or perhaps put the Brexit impasse up to a second referendum. While the market appears less fearful of a dreaded no deal, hard Brexit, such a dire scenario hasn’t been removed from the table and could quickly return to undercut the pound.




The dollar maintained a gain after spectacular news on America’s job market. Weekly jobless claims unexpectedly fell by 13,000 to 199,000, the lowest in nearly 50 years. The data may have been skewed by a holiday, however. Still, the underlying trend was consistent with the labor market retaining broad strength which bodes well for future hiring and wage growth. America’s record-long government shutdown could restrain the dollar by clouding the economy’s true health since several data releases have been delayed.




Lower oil prices and a stronger U.S. dollar kept Canada’s so-called loonie pinned near two-week lows. Crude, a top driver of Canada’s commodity influenced currency, fell by 0.5% to below $53. The price of oil could see surprise volatility over the short run given the political crisis in Venezuela. Loonie fundamentals suffered a setback this week in data showing a bigger than expected retreat in Canadian consumer spending, a potential harbinger of weaker growth over the final quarter of 2018.

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