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Euro Volatility to Continue on Greek Crisis as EU Summit Begins in Brussels

Euro Volatility to Continue on Greek Crisis as EU Summit Begins in Brussels

2010-03-25 07:26:00
Ilya Spivak, Sr. Currency Strategist

Key Overnight Developments

• New Zealand Economy Grows Most in Two Years in Q4
Euro, Pound Correct Higher Against Dollar in Asian Trade

Critical Levels

03242010 1

The Euro and the British Pound corrected slightly higher in overnight trade after suffering heavy losses in yesterday’s European and US sessions, adding 0.1 and 0.2 percent respectively against the greenback. We remain short EURUSD at 1.4881 and GBPUSD at 1.5765.

Asia Session Highlights

03242010 2

New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product printed in line with economists’ expectations, adding 0.8 percent in the three months through December to mark the largest quarterly increase in two years. The economy gained 0.4 percent from the previous year, the first positive print in the annual growth rate since the second quarter of 2008. The outcome boosted the outlook for RBNZ interest rate hikes, with a Credit Suisse gauge tracking priced-in expectations rising 8bps to show traders are betting on 179bps in tightening over the next 12 months.

The increase was driven by increases in private and government consumption, both of which added 0.9 percent from the previous quarter. In a worrying sign, business investment fell 2.5 percent, marking the largest decline since the first quarter of last year and hinting that businesses remain cautious, an outcome that bodes ill for employment and the sustainability of recovery.

Prime Minister John Key will hope to remedy the situation with his latest budget, set to be unveiled in May, by introducing tax cuts and infrastructure spending to boost investment with offsetting increases in sales duties to trim consumption. Finance Minister Bill English said the scheme will “lift economic growth by tilting the playing field toward productive investment, exports and new jobs.”

Euro Session: What to Expect

03242010 3

UK Retail Sales headline a relatively tame calendar in European hours, with expectations calling for core receipts (excluding gas sales) to increase 0.6 percent in February after falling 1.2 percent in the previous month. Sales are projected to have added 4.2 percent from February 2009, the largest annualized increase in nearly two years. The outcome is unlikely to be particularly supportive for the British Pound however after a report from the British Retail Consortium chalked up the rebound in the headline figure to comparisons against very weak receipts in the previous year while the Confederation of British Industry projected that retail activity weakened in March, with the number of retailers reporting a pickup in business dropping to 13% from 23% in the previous month.

On balance, all eyes are likely to be fixated on the European Union summit that is set to begin today in Brussels as leaders from the common market haggle over how to handle the lingering debt crisis in Greece. As if the situation was not tense enough, yesterday’s downgrade of Portugal’s credit rating by Fitch reminded markets that the solution developed for Athens will be the blueprint for how European policy makers deal with potential crises in larger economies, including Spain and Italy. Traders will be keen to latch onto any commentary that leaks from the proceedings over the next two days, with the ultimate outcome central to the direction of the Euro and risk appetite at large. As we have written previously, anything short of a decisive EU-led plan supporting Greece in the aftermath of Brussels – including a scheme involving outside help from the likes of the IMF (as apparently favored by Germany and France) – would likely have severe negative implications for the single currency, showing that the world’s largest economy is unable to keep its own house in order.

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