British Pound Volatility Threat High as Currency Markets Focus on BOE Minutes (Euro Open)

The British Pound may be in for a volatile session ahead as the release of minutes from this month’s Bank of England monetary policy meeting top the economic calendar in European hours. Currency markets were active in overnight after New Zealand GDP unexpectedly expanded and the Chinese central bank deputy governor sounded off against the US Dollar.

Key Overnight Developments

• Currency Surges as New Zealand GDP Unexpectedly Grows in Second Quarter
• USD Drops After PBOC’s Hu Says Dollar-Reserve System Must Change

Critical Levels

The Euro trended higher against the US Dollar in overnight trading, testing as high as 1.4842. The British Pound also advanced, adding as much as 0.4% against the greenback. We continue to hold a short GBPUSD position, initially targeting 1.6112.

Asia Session Highlights

New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product unexpectedly added 0.1% in the three months to June, snapping five consecutive quarters of losses. Economists were forecasting a -0.2% result ahead of the release. The economy shrank -2.1% from a year before, less than the expected -2.6% decline. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand was among those calling for a contraction when Governor Alan Bollard said the bank expected to “keep [interest rates] at or below the current level…until the latter part of 2010” at the monetary policy announcement earlier this month, and traders seemingly took today’s release to mean the time table will now accelerate. Indeed, a Credit Suisse gauge of priced-in rate hike expectations for the coming year jumped 13 basis points to a record high and the New Zealand Dollar surged to a fresh 2009 high against a trade-weighted basket of top currencies.

The US Dollar Index (an average of the greenback’s value against six major counterparts) spiked to a fresh yearly low after the Chinese central bank’s deputy governor Hu Xiaolian wrote in a paper posted on the G20 website ahead of the group’s summit in Pittsburg this week that the current crisis was due in part to the Dollar’s role as global reserve currency. Hu, who is also the former director of China’s foreign-exchange authority, went on to say that the world stands at risk of an asset bubble and potentially another crisis akin to the current one if the global monetary system is not changed.

Euro Session: What to Expect

The release of minutes from this month’s Bank of England monetary policy meeting headline the economic calendar in European hours. The announcement itself produced no surprises with interest rates left at 0.5% and the magnitude of quantitative easing unchanged at 175 billion pounds. Just five days later, however, BOE chief Mervyn King gave resoundingly dovish testimony to House of Commons Treasury Committee, saying poor credit growth remains a direct drag on demand and revealing that policymakers are considering cutting the interest rate they pay on bank deposits to encourage idle reserves to be channeled into lending. The latter comment in particular sent the British Pound tumbling, with traders clearly caught off guard as the BOE was seemingly preparing for more, not less, monetary easing despite the recent uptick in leading economic indicators. This creates strong potential for sterling volatility as the markets dissect tonight’s release for any clues on how serious King and company are about the deposit rate idea and when (if ever) such an outcome may be expected. For our part, we speculated ahead of the September 10 rate announcement that the bank was preparing the markets for a change in policy after the asset-buying scheme largely failed to affect lending to the real economy. Indeed, although Mervyn King has said that the BOE was “beginning to see its impact on the supply of broad money,” the M4 measure of money stock grew at an annual pace of just 12.6% in August, the slowest in a year, while central bank’s own data showed net lending shrank for the first time in at least 16 years in July.

Separately, the British Bankers Association’s measure of Loans for House Purchase is set to show that mortgage approvals rose by 40,500 in August, the most since February 2008, hinting at stabilization in the property market. Earlier this week, a report from Rightmove Plc showed that UK house prices fell the least in a year in September, saying “confidence is up, stock is down and the number of people searching is high.” However, as we noted earlier, the rebound may have a hard time retaining traction with consumer sentiment apparently tracking equities and therefore is vulnerable to a (long overdue) correction in risky assets while unemployment continues to rise, with a survey of economists polled by Bloomberg calling for the jobless rate to top 9% next year.

Turning to the continent, a handful of Purchasing Manager Index releases are expected to come in broadly positive. In Germany, the manufacturing sector is expected to expand for the first time in 14 months while the pace of expansion in the service industry picks up to the fastest since April 2008. Manufacturing will likely continue to shrink in the Euro Zone as a whole but the rate of decline is set to moderate to the slowest since the sector first began to contract in May last year. The improvement can likely be attributed to the continued rebuilding of inventories after firms cut production and exhausted their stocks of goods last year and through the first quarter of 2009 amid the global economic downturn. Still, Industrial New Orders are expected to shrink -25.9% in the year to July, suggesting the pace of demand contraction will remain within the range noted since November of last year.

Written by Ilya Spivak, Currency Analyst
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