Time for a Brexit breakthrough?


Good Morning, last week the markets switched their attention away from the recent US election and started reacting to COVID-19 derived headlines. Risk sentiment see-sawed during the week and will continue to be the primary driver of currency moves.

Initially, the stock markets went to the moon on the news that Pfizer had developed a COVID-19 vaccine that was at least 90% effective. As stock markets rallied risk sentiment improved and beta currencies such as the pound rallied. As the week progressed the market mood soured as the realisation hit that there is a likelihood of more economic setbacks before the vaccine can make a difference. Europe now has widespread lockdowns as the second wave of the virus rampages through the continent but more troubling for the markets is its spread in the United States. Whilst Donald Trump has been in charge, the economy has been kept running but the market’s worry is whether Joe Biden, if he becomes President, will implement widespread lockdowns.

In the coming week, we expect currencies to remain mainly event-driven with the same three stories, as in recent times, dominating. Firstly, the uncertain political backdrop in the US is still rumbling away in the background, with allegations of fraud, legal cases and recounts continuing. Secondly, with American COVID-19 cases increasing exponentially, the fear of post-Thanksgiving lockdowns in the US is starting to permeate through into the markets. Finally, after another week of seemingly little progress, there is a sense that we may, at last, be approaching the end game in the Brexit trade deal negotiations as they increasingly becoming time-critical. With plenty of unpredictable themes set to drive the markets this week, we will be here to help, giving you insights on how this could impact your currency requirements and how we can mitigate these risks.


Sterling traded in quite a narrow range last week, finishing at $1.3150 against the dollar, after touching a high of $1.3250 and at just above €1.1100 against the euro. As we enter the second week of lockdown in the UK the infection numbers seem to be dropping and attention is starting to switch to Number 10, where Boris Johnson has been forced to self-isolate. After two hardline Brexiters, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain left last week there is an increased sense that the land is being prepared for a relatively soft Brexit deal. Time is really running out now to get any free trade agreement ratified by both parliaments and the feeling is that a deal needs to be agreed in the next couple of weeks, if not sooner. As always with Brexit, it is best not to rule out a surprise and we will, of course, be watching the headlines closely. There is not a lot of data being released in the coming week apart from October’s Consumer Price Index on Wednesday and October’s Retail sales on Friday. The Bank of England is also busy with Andrew Bailey, Dave Ramsden and Andy Haldane all set to speak.


The market shrugged off some dire economic figures from the Eurozone, allowing the euro to have a relatively good week, touching at one point a two-month high of €1.1920. Buyers have been encouraged as lockdowns seem to be leading to a flattening of coronavirus curve. If this flattening continues the opportunities for opening of economies in the run-up to Christmas will increase and Europe’s economy, and the euro, will benefit whilst the US flounders. As with sterling, the euro will benefit from any Brexit breakthrough but, as we have seen recently, once it approaches $1.2000 the ECB will verbally intervene to try and cap any advance. The EU virtual summit on Thursday could be the platform for an announcement regarding Brexit. Plenty of speakers from the ECB this week, with Christine Lagarde scheduled to speak every day apart from Wednesday! There is not a lot on the Eurozone data docket this week with just October’s Consumer Price Index on Wednesday and Consumer Confidence on Friday.


Donald Trump has remained relatively quiet in the last week, however, he has still yet to concede defeat. Whilst the media and most of the market are assuming that Joe Biden will be the next President, it is still not finalised, and States have until December 8th to resolve disputes. Away from politics, the dollar will again be driven by switches in risk sentiment most likely caused by COVID-19 derived headlines. New York and Chicago are taking steps to try and halt the spread of the virus, whilst elsewhere it is verging on being out of control with patients in the Midwest being unable to find hospital beds. With Donald Trump unlikely to impose restrictions it will be down to local governors to decide but many consumers will have made their mind up and will stay at home. There are plenty of speakers from the Fed this week, who are likely to reiterate the same mantra of “whatever it takes” whilst hinting at further intervention if necessary.  A relatively quiet week on data with just October’s Retail Sales, released on Monday, and the Thursday’s employment numbers catching the eye.


The Swedish krona had a roller-coaster week, initially strengthening against all major currencies and then weakening rather spectacularly on Friday. What started the sell-off on Friday was a report from the Riksbank saying that annual growth from the Nordic countries’ largest economy was lower than initially publicised which was followed later in the day by the government of Sweden imposing new COVID-19 related restrictions. Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must now shut at 22:00 until the end of March, thus affecting the crucial festive period. This week, we will watch for the unemployment rate out on Thursday
The Norwegian krone also had a volatile week, after initially strengthening but then lost ground towards the end of the week and practically finished unchanged. On Tuesday, we will get the consumer confidence indicator which will tell us whether we can expect festive cheer from the retail industry post-Christmas, or not. We will also get the GDP figure on Tuesday.

Over in Denmark, the decision to kill 17m minks in the country was taken by the government after a mutation of the virus was found in them. Denmark was until last week Europe’s largest fur producer and the industry turned over almost $1bln 2018-2019. Experts predict that 1,000 farms will now close permanently affecting 6,000 jobs. We will monitor any statements from the Danmarks Nationalbank and the finance minister Nicolai Wammen closely this week.


The Australian dollar had a relatively quiet week last week as the country seems to have got the second wave of Covid under control we will be watching closely for signs of a further deterioration of their relationship with China. This week the Royal Bank of Australia’s Governor Philip Lowe is speaking, and we will be keeping an eye out for the unemployment figures on Thursday. The yen traded at just above 103 on the vaccine news last week but as the week wore on its own COVID-19 spike started to concern markets and the currency eased. The Canadian dollar was driven by movements in oil and as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) turned south the currency followed. With no economic data to drive the loonie this week, it will again most likely track the oil market.