February 21, 2018
Indicative Interbank spot sell rates only as of 9:00 AM PST.
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United States (US): FOMC minutes released today. The Fed left the rate unchanged at a range of 1.25% to 1.5%, and said inflation was expected to “move up” this year and stabilize around the 2% target “over the medium term.” Federal Reserve officials grew more positive on the economic outlook, citing “substantial underlying economic momentum,” and were increasingly optimistic about achieving their inflation target, according to minutes of last month's policy meeting. Fed officials “anticipated that the rate of economic growth in 2018 would exceed their estimates of its sustainable longer-run pace and that labor market conditions would strengthen further. A majority of participants noted that a stronger outlook for economic growth raised the likelihood that further gradual policy firming would be appropriate.” On the economic data side, a surge in services and continued strength in manufacturing pushed the PMI composite to a 27-month high at 55.9 in the February flash surpassing by a wide margin at 53.5. An uptick in supply and lower prices failed to boost existing home sales in January, which unexpectedly fell 3.2% versus December level to an annualized rate of 5.380 million, well below the consensus estimate of 5.650 million. Home resales were down 4.8% year-on-year. But prices softened considerably in January, which won't be drawing new homes onto the market. The median selling price fell by a sharp 2.4% to $240,500 for a year-on-year increase of 5.8%. As interest rates continued to rise, purchase applications for home mortgages fell 6.0% on a seasonally adjusted basis in the February 16 week, putting the unadjusted year-on-year gain in the Purchase Index at 3.0%, down 1% from the prior week.
Australian dollar traded at 78.70 U.S. cents at 11:15 am PST. The seasonally adjusted Wage Price Index (WPI) rose 0.55% over the December quarter in seasonally adjusted terms, leaving the change on a year earlier at 2.08%. Markets had been expecting a quarterly gain of 0.5%, seeing the year-on-year rate hold steady at 2.0%, so the data is a marginal beat. With consumer price inflation running at 1.9% over the same period, it means that real wage growth was flat over the year for most Australian workers. The annual rate of wage growth has increased for the second consecutive quarter reflecting falling unemployment and underemployment rates, and increasing job vacancy levels.
Euro traded at 1.2348 against USD at 11:15 am PST. Germany’s private sector continued to see strong growth in February despite the pace of expansion slowing down. The IHS Markit Flash Germany Composite Output Index dipped to a three-month low of 57.4 from January’s 81-month high of 59.0. The IHS Markit Flash Germany Manufacturing PMI was at 60.3, down from 61.1 in January. Higher new orders were recorded for the thirty-eighth month running in February, a new record for the series which stretches back more than two decades. However, despite remaining robust overall, rates of growth slowed across both manufacturing and services to the weakest for six months. Meanwhile, February saw a further increase in private sector employment. One factor leading firms to create new jobs was strong business confidence. The degree of optimism shown by the survey towards future business activity was in fact at a record high since July 2012, driven by improvement in future expectations in the service sector. France’s private sector growth remained elevated in February. IHS Markit Flash France Composite Output Index signaled a slower rate of expansion at 57.8 down from 59.6 last month. Rates of output growth softened in the manufacturing and services sectors. The increase in output was supported by a twentieth consecutive rise in new orders. Supported by strong client demand, private sector firms in France continued to take on additional workers during February. The rate of employment growth quickened from the previous month. Input prices continued to increase in February, extending the current period of inflation to two years. In line with the trend for input costs, average selling prices increased. Business confidence at private sector firms remained elevated. The improvement was broad-based across both the manufacturing and services sectors.
British Pound exchange rate is 1.3991 against USD at 11:15 am PST. The number of people out of work in Britain rose at the fastest rate in almost five years. After an almost two-year period of continuous declines in unemployment to the lowest levels since the mid 1970s, the number of people out of work rose by 46,000 to 1.47 million in the three months to December. The jobless rate rose to 4.4% against forecasts for the level to remain unchanged at 4.3%. Average weekly earnings excluding bonuses increased by 2.5%, beating forecasts for the rate of pay growth to stay unchanged at 2.4%. The signs of the job market losing steam will prove worrying for ministers, as well as the Bank of England as it looks to raise interest rates from as early as May. The rise in unemployment could add to worries over the health of the economy as the UK leaves the European Union.
Japanese Yen traded at 107.42 per USD at 11:15am PST. Flash Japan Manufacturing PMI edges lower to 54.0 in February compare to 54.8 in January. Output and new orders both grow at weaker pace while recent yen appreciation has coincided with slower new export order growth. Employment growth accelerates to 11-year high signals confidence that expansionary output and demand trends will continue for the time being.
This market update is prepared by Cathay Bank for informational purposes only and does not constitute any form of legal, tax or investment advice, nor should it be considered an assurance or guarantee of future exchange rate movements or trends. This information is provided without regard to the specific objectives, financial situations or needs of any recipient. Cathay Bank does not make any representations or warranties about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of this market update.