EUR / USD
Just after the European open the Eurogroup confirmed that the meeting to discuss financial support for Euro-zone countries had broken up with no agreement. Italy and some other countries were continuing to push to long-term joint bonds, but this was still being resisted by Northern counties. The meeting will resume on Thursday with France attempting to broker some form of compromise arrangement. French Finance Minister Le Maire stated that the EU needs agreement on the crisis response within the next 24 hours, failure is not an option. The domestic economic institutes estimated that the German economy is likely to contract 9.8% for the second quarter with a full-year decline of 4.2% before a strong recovery of 5.8% for 2021.
Spain reported an increase in the number of new coronavirus cases of over 6,000 in the latest 24 hours and over 750 deaths, reinforcing concerns that it will take a long time to flatten the curve. Lockdown measures in Europe are also set to be extended which will reinforce concerns over the outlook. ECB council member Villeroy stated that the central bank will have an obligation to keep interest rates low for a long period of time.
The Euro remained under pressure in European trading, but did find support below 1.0850 against the dollar and settled around 1.0870 as the US currency drifted lower. The Eurogroup meetings will resume later on Thursday with the Euro liable to secure a limited boost if some form of agreement can be reached. The Euro settled around 1.0865 against the dollar in early Europe with stronger than expected German trade data and volatility is liable to increase later in the session.
US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin stated that they will aim to prevent small businesses running out of money and negotiations are on-going for another support package. Senator Sanders announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign, confirming a Trump-Biden context in November.
Markets were monitoring the situation in Wuhan to assess whether an easing of lockdown measures would be sustainable or whether infection rates would start to increase once again. US equities made significant gains into the European close which helped support risk appetite, but the dollar was unable to make headway as it edged lower to the 108.70 area amid wider US currency losses.
Minutes from the March 15th Federal Reserve meeting stated that trading conditions across a range of markets were severely strained with reports of an acute decline in Treasury market liquidity. All participants viewed the near-term outlook as having deteriorated sharply and having become profoundly uncertain. Dallas Fed President Kaplan stated that unemployment could increase to around 15% before a decline to 7-8% by year-end and there could be new Fed programmes to support the economy. Overall, the dollar settled around the 108.85 area at the New York close. Volatility eased on Thursday with a slight increase in US equity futures and the US currency held just below the 109.00 level amid evidence of exporter dollar selling above this level.
The medical bulletins on Prime Minister Johnson offered some encouragement as he was reportedly making good progress. Latest data, however, recorded the largest number of UK coronavirus deaths so far at 938 with new cases close to 5,500. EU chief trade negotiator Barnier stated that he will speak to his UK counter-part Frost next week to organise upcoming negotiation rounds, but markets remained uneasy overtime pressures. A firm tone in commodity currencies helped underpin sentiment to some extent while concerns over Euro-zone budget policies also helped underpin the UK currency.
Sterling overall held a firm tone during Wednesday with a move above 1.2400 against the dollar while the Euro retreated to 0.8750 before a slight correction. The RICS housing index weakened to 11% from 29% previously, although sales expectations declined to a record low. Sterling was slightly lower on Thursday with a retreat to 1.2370 as February GDP data recorded a 0.1% decline. There is the potential for choppy trading with position adjustment ahead of the Easter market holiday.
The Euro remained under pressure in early Europe with the Eurogroup failure to reach agreement on a fiscal support package undermining sentiment. The single currency recovered some net ground later in the session but was trapped near 1.0550 against the franc while the dollar declined to lows below 0.9700.
There were further concerns that National Bank intervention to restrain the Swiss currency was having little underlying impact. An easing of market volatility could curb potential defensive demand for the Swiss currency, but there was little evidence of selling on Thursday with the Euro held close to 1.0550.