Overall confidence in the UK currency also remained strong amid vaccine optimism with fresh 34-month GBP/USD highs near 1.4000.

US data was mixed with the jobless claims data much higher than expected which increased the uncertainty element in global markets.

Wall Street equities moved lower amid unease over the risks of higher inflation and bond yields. Global equity markets overall lost ground amid pressure for a correction.

The dollar retreated in choppy trading as negative real yields limited support. EUR/USD approached 1.2100 and attacked this level on Friday. Sterling maintained a strong tone with GBP/EUR at 11-month highs near 1.1570. Commodity currencies eventually posted limited net gains as the US currency retreated.

The Euro held firm into Thursday’s New York open as the dollar tended to drift lower. ECB minutes from January’s meeting stated that the projected path of inflation continued to be distant from the council’s medium-term aim and that ample monetary stimulus remained essential. The council also reiterated that a temporary inflation boost should not be mistaken as sustainable, but there were some positive aspects with favourable financing conditions expected to prevail for some time.

US initial jobless claims increased to 861,000 in the latest week with last week’s total revised sharply higher to 848,000 from the initial report of 793,000 and well above consensus forecasts of 770,000. Continuing claims declined to 4.49mn from 4.56mn, although this was also above market expectations. There was a decline in pandemic emergency assistance of 1.3mn for the week, but the data triggered reservations over the labour market trends.

Housing starts declined to 1.58mn for the January from a revised 1.68mn the previous month and slightly below consensus forecasts, although building permits surged to 1.88mn, the highest reading since June 2006. The Philly Fed manufacturing index declined slightly to 23.1 for February from 26.5 the previous month, although above consensus forecasts of 20.5. There was also a slight slowdown in the rate of new orders growth while employment increased at a slightly stronger rate. Pries paid increased sharply, but the increase in prices received moderated, easing inflation fears slightly.

Euro-zone consumer confidence improved slightly to -14.8 for February from -15.5 previously. The retreated after the claims data, although there was choppy trading as the currency attempted to recover at times. Overall, the dollar edged lower with EUR/USD just below 1.2100 and the dollar was unable to regain ground on Friday as EUR/USD nudged above 1.2100.

There were reports that the Bank of Japan may revamp its guidance on ETF purchases as part of the March policy review, but the currency market impact was limited.

US yields initially held firm at the New York open despite the higher than expected data for jobless claims, but there was gradual erosion later in the session. Wall Street equities also lost ground which limited the scope for further yen selling. USD/JPY drifted lower to the 105.60 area as wider losses sapped support.

Japan’s PMI manufacturing index edged higher to 50.6 for February from 49.8 previously and the first expansion since April 2019 with the services sector retreating slightly to 45.8 from 46.1. The Japanese 10-year bond yield increased to the highest level since November 2018.

Treasury Secretary Yellen stated that a big stimulus package was still needed to address economic pain within the economy.

The Chinese yuan recovered some ground on Friday with markets monitoring US-China relations. In particular, the G7 comments will be watched closely later in the day and could have an impact on risk conditions. US futures edged lower in Asia and USD/JPY regained ground to trade around 105.65 from 105.55 lows.

Bank of England external MPC member Saunders expressed notable concerns over the labour market with comments that unemployment rate had already increased sharply and was expected to increase further once the furlough scheme comes to an end. He also noted concerns over the economic recovery and scarring risks. Nevertheless, he downplayed the potential for negative interest rates and stated that no decision needed to be made at this time.

Given that Saunders has had a very dovish slant over the past few months, the rhetoric provided an element of Sterling support. Overall confidence in the UK currency also remained strong amid vaccine optimism with fresh 34-month GBP/USD highs near 1.4000.

The UK GfK consumer confidence index improved to a 10-month high of -23 from -28 previously. Retail sales, however, declined 8.2% for January after a 0.3% gain the previous month and well below expectations of a 3.0% decline. The government borrowing data was much lower than expected at £8.8bn for January. Sterling edged lower after the data, although the impact was notably muted as GBP/USD traded around 1.3975 with GBP/EUR just above 1.1550.

Economic Calendar

07:00GBP Retail Sales ex-Fuel (M/M)(JAN)-2.60%0.40%
07:00GBP Retail Sales ex-Fuel (Y/Y)(JAN)2.20%6.40%
07:00GBP Retail Sales (Y/Y)(JAN)-1.30%2.90%
07:00GBP Retail Sales (M/M)(JAN)-2.50%0.30%
07:00GBP Public Sector Net Borrowing(JAN)26.11B
07:00EUR German PPI (Y/Y)(JAN)0.30%0.20%
07:00EUR German PPI (M/M)(JAN)0.80%0.80%
08:15Markit Mfg PMI(FEB)50.551.6
08:30EUR German PMI Composite(FEB)50.350.8
08:30EUR German PMI Services(FEB)45.346.7
08:30EUR German Manufacturing PMI (M/M)(FEB)57.557.1
09:00CPI (EU Norm) Prelim MM(FEB)0.20%
09:00CPI (EU Norm) Prelim YY(FEB)-0.10%-0.20%
09:00CPI (EU Norm) Final YY*(FEB)0.20%-0.30%
09:00CPI (EU Norm) Final MM*(FEB)0.20%-1.10%
09:00Euro-Zone PMI Manufacturing(FEB)54.554.8
09:00Euro-Zone PMI Composite(FEB)47.8
09:00Euro-Zone PMI Services(FEB)44.545.4
13:30CAD Retail Sales Ex Autos (M/M)(JAN)0.30%2.10%
13:30CAD Retail Sales (M/M)(JAN)0.10%1.30%
14:45USD Manufacturing PMI(FEB)56.559.2
14:45USD Markit PMI Composite(FEB 01)58.7
14:45USD Markit Services PMI(FEB)53.658.3
15:00USD Existing Home Sales(JAN)6.55M6.76M
15:00USD Existing Home Sales Change(JAN)-2.00%0.70%

*All rates shown are indicative of interbank rates and should only be used for indication purposes only. It is important to note that foreign exchange rates fluctuate and that rates may vary depending on the amount and the base currency that is purchased or sold. Rates are correct as of 8:00am UK time. CentralFX are not responsible for the rates shown.