All eyes last week were on dollar’s slide against all rival currencies, after the release of disappointing U.S. retail sales report for January and unexpected rise in initial jobless claims the week ended February 8.
Official data from the U.S. Commerce Department published on the economic calendar on Thursday, February 13th, showed a slide in retail sales for the second consecutive month in January. The report indicated that retail sales decreased by a seasonally adjusted 0.4% the previous month, upsetting expectations for a 0.3% rise and seriously questioning the outlook of the U.S. economic recovery. December’s figure was revised down to 0.1% decline from a previously reported 0.2% gain, when winter clothing sales rose. Strong retail sales associate with robust economic growth, while decreasing retail sales show a declining economy, thus directly affecting the market sentiment in a negative way.
The report also indicated that core retail sales, excluding automobile sales, were flat in January, compared to expectations for a 0.1% increase. The corresponding figure in December was revised down to a rise of 0.3% from a formerly documented upsurge of 0.7%. Core sales reflect on the consumer spending element of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. It is noteworthy that consumer spending accounts for 70% of the overall economic growth.
The median estimate of 86 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the release of the official data in Thursday, showed stagnation in U.S. retail sales in January. In anticipation of the report, TeleTrade analysts said that “a probable decline or flat outcome on retail sales report, will provide little motivation for traders to buy the greenback, where this in the short-term will imply little prospective for the currency’s recovery”.
Meanwhile, official data from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that the number of individuals who filed for unemployment assistance in the week ending February 8, increased to 339,000 from the previous week’s figure of 331,000. Economists had anticipated jobless claims to drop by 1,000 to 330,000, so the announced figure came as a shock. The unexpected 8,000 weekly increase fuelled traders’ concerns over the strength of the U.S. labor market.
Euro gained ground
Following the release of the weak data on Thursday, 13, the single currency rose versus the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD climbing up to 0.65% to 1.3681, rebounding from the previous session’s lows of 1.3561, after the statements of Benoit Coere – ECB member – that the ECB is seriously considering a negative overnight interest rate on deposits.
In Friday 14, however, the single currency peaked to an almost three-week high against the greenback, with EUR/USD gaining 0.08% to 1.3691. The euro found further support after the release of preliminary data reporting rise in Eurozone’s Gross Domestic Product by 0.4 in the last quarter. The report that was published by Eurostat, exceeded forecasts for a 0.2% increase, following a merely 0.1% rise in Q3. Eurostat’s data also indicated that the seasonally-adjusted GDP growth in the Eurozone area was projected to be 0.5% up compared to the last quarter of 2012.
Another report earlier in the day, indicated that the German GDP increased by 0.4% in Q4, above forecasts for a 0.3% increase, while the French GDP rose 0.3% during the same period, with regard to forecasts for a 0.2% rise.
GBP in 33-month high
The sterling edged up to a 33-month high versus the U.S. dollar on Friday, with GBP/USD increasing to 1.6715 during European morning session. The cable strengthened significantly after the Bank of England revised its forecast for the U.K. economy from 2.8% to 3.4% for the current year on Wednesday, 12. The BoE also updated its forward guidance on bank rates, stating it will not increase rates until the spare capacity in the U.K. economy has been fully absorbed, which it is not expected to occur until 2015.
Performance of Other Major Currencies
In the wake of the unexpectedly weak data on Thursday, the USD/JPY hit 101.71, the lowest since February 7. The greenback remained lower on the following day, with USD/JPY reaching 101.85. The yen generally found support against its rival counterparts at the end of the week, as decreases in Asian equities enhanced demand for Japan’s safe currency.
On Friday 14, the U.S. dollar also edged lower versus the Australian and New Zealand dollar, with AUD/USD rising 0.51% to 0.8924 and NZD/USD gaining 0.32% to 0.8368, after the announcement of positive inflation figures from China, as the country is the main trading partner of both Australia and New Zealand. The greenback lowered against the Swiss franc and the Canadian dollar, with USD/CHF falling 0.11% to 0.8926 and USD/CAD dropping 0.20% to 1.0953.
Among weak retail sales and employment numbers, the U.S. dollar index, which records the overall performance of the currency against a basket of six other major currencies, fell 0.18% to 80.21 on Friday, which is the lowest in more than a month.
About TeleTrade – Financial Markets Expert
Founded in 1994, the TeleTrade Group is a truly global brand with over 200 offices in 30 countries, being an acknowledged leader in its field with numerous industry and business awards. TeleTrade-DJ International Consulting Ltd is established in Cyprus and maintains representative offices in most EU countries. It is licensed and regulated by CySec (Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission) under licence number 158/11 and operates in accordance with MiFID (EU Investment Directive).
Barclays announces new trade finance platform for corporate clients
Barclays Corporate Banking has today announced that it is working with CGI to implement the CGI Trade360 platform. This new platform will provide an industry leading end-to-end global trade finance solution for Barclays clients in the UK and around the world.
With the CGI Trade360 platform, Barclays will provide clients with greater connectivity and visibility into their supply chains, allowing them to optimise working capital efficiency, funding and risk mitigation. By utilising cloud based functionality for corporate banking clients, Barclays will also be able to offer a leading client user experience through easy access and real-time integration to essential information, combined with the latest trade solutions as the industry-wide shift to digitisation continues to accelerate.
This move underpins Barclays commitment to supporting the trade and working capital needs of their clients and reinforces a commitment to innovation that has been central to the bank for more than 300 years.
James Binns, Global Head of Trade & Working Capital at Barclays, said: “We are delighted to announce our move to the CGI Trade360 platform and to have started the implementation process. We have a longstanding partnership with CGI, and the CGI Trade360 platform will mean we can continue delivering the best possible trade solutions and service to our clients for many years to come.”
Neil Sadler, Senior Vice President, UK Financial Services, at CGI, said: “Having worked closely with Barclays for the last 30 years, we knew we were in an excellent position to enhance their systems. Not only do we have a history with them and understand how they work, but part of the CGI Trade360 solution includes a proof of concept phase, which is essentially seven weeks of meetings and workshops with employees across the globe to guarantee the product’s efficiency and answer all queries. We’re delighted that Barclays chose to continue working with us and look forward to supporting them over the coming years.”
What’s the current deal with commodities trading?
By Sylvain Thieullent, CEO of Horizon Software
The London Metal Exchange (LME) trading ring has been the noisy home of metals traders buying and selling for over a hundred years. It’s the world’s oldest and largest metals market and is home to the last open outcry trading floor. Recently however, the age-old trading ring, though has been closed during the pandemic and, just a few weeks ago, the LME announced that it will remain so for another six months and that it is taking steps to improve its electronic trading. This news fits in with a growing narrative in commodities about a shift to electronic trading that has been bubbling away under the surface.
Something certainly is stirring in commodities. The crisis has affected different raw materials differently: a weakening dollar and rising inflation risks bode well for some commodities with precious metals being very attractive, as seen by gold reaching all-time highs. Oil on the other hand has had a tough year and experienced record lows from the Saudi-Russia pricing war. It has been a turbulent year, and now prices look set to soar. While a recent analyst report from Goldman Sachs predicts a bullish market in commodities for the year ahead, with the firm forecasting that it’s commodities index will surge 28%, led by energy (43%) and precious metals (18%).
Increasingly, therefore, it seems that 2020 is turning out to be a watershed moment for commodities, and it’s likely that the years ahead will bring about significant transformation. And whilst this evolution might have been forced in part by coronavirus, these changes have been building up for some time. Commodities are one of the last assets to embrace electronic trading; FX was the first to take the plunge in the 90s, and since then equities and bonds have integrated technology into their infrastructure, which has steadily become more advanced.
The slow uptake in commodities can be explained by several truths: the volumes are smaller and there is less liquidity, and the instruments are generally less exotic, essentially meaning it has not been essential for them to develop such technology – at least not until now. This means that, for the most part, the technology in commodities trading is a bit outdated. But that is changing. Commodities trading is on the cusp of taking steps towards the levels of sophistication in trading as we see in other asset classes, with automated and algo trading becoming ever prominent.
Yet, as commodities trading institutions are upgrading their systems, they will be beginning to discover the extent of the job at hand. It’s no easy task to upgrade how an entire trading community operates so there’s lots to be done across these massive organisations. It requires a massive technology overhaul, and exchanges and trading firms alike must be cautious in the way they proceed, carefully establishing a holistic, step-by-step implementation strategy, preferably with an agile, V-model approach.
The workflow needs to be upgraded at every stage to ensure a smooth end-to-end trading experience. So, in replacement of the infamous ring, these players will be looking to transform key elements of their trading infrastructure, including re-engineering of matching engines and improving communications with clearing houses.
However, these changes extend beyond technology. For commodities players to make a success of the transformation in their community, exchanges need to have highly skilled technology and change the very culture of trading. All of which is currently being done against a backdrop of lockdown, which makes things much more difficult and can slow down implementation.
What is clear is that coronavirus has definitely acted as a catalyst for a reformation in commodities. It is a foreshadowing of what lies ahead for commodities trading infrastructure because, a few years down the line, commodities trading could well be very different to how it is now, and the trading ring consigned to history.
Afreximbank’s African Commodity Index declines moderately in Q3-2020
African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has released the Afreximbank African Commodity Index (AACI) for Q3-2020. The AACI is a trade-weighted index designed to track the price performance of 13 different commodities of interest to Africa and the Bank on a quarterly basis. In its Q3-2020 reading, the composite index fell marginally by 1% quarter-on-quarter (q/q), mainly on account of a pull-back in the energy sub-index. In comparison, the agricultural commodities sub-index rose to become the top performer in the quarter, outstripping gains in base and precious metals.
The recurrence of adverse commodity terms of trade shocks has been the bane of African economies, and in tracking the movements in commodity prices the AACI highlights areas requiring pre-emptive measures by the Bank, its key stakeholders and policymakers in its member countries, as well as global institutions interested in the African market, to effectively mitigate risks associated with commodity price volatility.
An overview of the AACI for Q3-2020 indicates that on a quarterly basis
- The energy sub-index fell by 8% due largely to a sharp drop in oil prices as Chinese demand waned and Saudi Arabia cut its pricing;
- The agricultural commodities sub-index rose 13% due in part to suboptimal weather conditions in major producing countries. But within that index
- Sugar prices gained on expectations of firm import demand from China and fears that Thailand’s crop could shrink in 2021 following a drought;
- Cocoa futures enjoyed a pre-election premium in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, despite the looming risk of bumper harvests in the 2020/21 season and the decline in the price of cocoa butter;
- Cotton rose to its highest level since February 2020 due to the threat of storm Sally on the US cotton harvest, coupled with poor field conditions in the US;
- Coffee rose 10% as La Nina weather conditions in Vietnam, the world’s largest producer of Robusta coffee, raised the possibility of a shortage in exports.
- Base metals sub-index rose 9% due to several factors including ongoing supply concerns for copper in Chile and Peru and strong demand in China, especially as the State Grid boosted spending to improve the power network;
- Precious metals sub-index, the best performer year-to-date, rose 7% in the quarter as the demand for haven bullion continued in the face of persistent economic challenges triggered by COVID-19 and heightening geopolitical tensions. In addition, Gold enjoyed record inflows into gold-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs) which offset major weaknesses in jewellery demand.
Regarding the outlook for commodity prices, the AACI highlights the generally conservative market sentiment with consensus forecasts predicting prices to stay within a tight range in the near term with the exception of Crude oil, Coffee, Crude Palm Oil, Cobalt and Sugar.
Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist at Afreximbank, said:
“Commodity prices in Q3-2020 have largely been impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has exposed global demand shifts that have seen the oil industry incur backlogs and agricultural commodity prices dwindle in the first half of the year. The outlook for 2021 is positive however conservative the markets still are. We hope to see an increase in global demand within Q1 and Q2 – 2021 buoyed by the relaxation of most COVID-19 disruptions and restrictions.’’
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