What to expect from a not-so-super Thursday
Thursday has the potential to be another interesting day in the markets, with interest rate decisions due from both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.
It’s not often that we hear from two major central banks on the same day, let alone around the same time, but when we do there’s always the potential for some turbulence.
Both central banks are in the early days of their respective tightening cycles, with the BoE having recently raised interest rates above 0.5% for the first time since the financial crisis and the ECB drawing its quantitative easing program to a close at the end of this year.
While there’ll still be plenty of cash sloshing around the financial system until they start the process of reducing their balance sheets – as the Federal Reserve is currently experimenting with – the moves being undertaken represent a very cautious and gradual tightening that traders are monitoring very closely for any signs that they may lose their nerve.
This is particularly true in the current environment with the UK and EU locked in Brexit negotiations as the 31 March deadline draws ever near. Protectionism is another key risk factor with US President Donald Trump threatening tariffs on the block. Add to that the struggles being experienced in emerging markets at the moment – a major trade partner of Europe – and the jobs of the central banks become that much harder.
We already appear to be seeing a slowdown in numerous economies across Europe due to a combination of these factors, something the central banks don’t appear to concerned about just yet but may do should they persist.
What should I be looking at?
The obvious chart is EURGBP given that these are the two currencies most sensitive to what the BoE and ECB do. The closely linked nature of the two economies can mean we see less powerful swings in this pair though than we do certain others which can make it more or less appealing, depending on preferences.
EURGBP Daily Chart
The euro has definitely had the better of things throughout the summer, with no deal Brexit being viewed as a far greater risk for the UK than the eurozone, which is understandable. What this means though is that if the two sides do start to find common ground, we may see this trend reverse course, as we have over the last couple of weeks when we’ve had some more positive news flow.
That trend may already have changed, with last week’s sell-off taking us below the rising trend line and potentially signalling a shift in sentiment in the market. Obviously that won’t change the outcome of the meetings, or press conference in the case of the ECB, but it does give a sense of bias heading into it.
Both currencies have found some form against the US dollar over the last month following a rough summer but are yet to see the spark that gives some confidence that they’ve broken into a more sustainable uptrend. They’ll definitely be ones to watch heading into the meetings.
EURUSD Daily Chart
GBPUSD Daily Chart
What can we expect from the meetings?
My expectations are actually quite low for the meetings. The reason why is that it seems to suit both central banks to stay under the radar for now. Both have made important first steps towards normalization and are in no rush and with Brexit on the horizon, now is not a good time to be changing course, especially as they don’t have to.
Both have laid out quite clear plans for the next year and even if they don’t stick to them – which there’s a good chance they don’t given the amount of unknowns and risks – the important thing is that investors are largely on board and the economies are doing ok. I don’t think they’ll want to mess with that.
So I don’t expect any changes in interest rates or QE this month and we can probably expect ECB President Mario Draghi’s press conference to be a rather dull affair.
Famous last words eh….