The US Dollar saw selling pressure after data showed China’s manufacturing sector expanded for the third consecutive month in May, boosting stock markets on hopes that the Asian giant would help reignite global demand. Australian economic news yielded mixed results in overnight trading. May’s UK Manufacturing PMI is on tap in European hours.
Key Overnight Developments
• Australian Manufacturing Shrinks at Slower Pace, Retail Sales Rise
• Risky Assets See Boost as Chinese Manufacturing Expands for Third Month
The Euro was confined to a familiar range in overnight trading, oscillating in a 60-pip band above the 1.41 level. The British Pound trended gently upward, testing as high as 1.6245 before retreating back to the 1.62 mark. The US Dollar saw heavy selling pressure overnight as China’s manufacturing sector expanded for the third consecutive month in May, boosting stock markets on hopes that the Asian giant would reignite global demand, but prices retraced ahead of the European trading open.
Asia Session Highlights
Australia’s AiG Performance of Manufacturing Index rose to 37.5 in May, the highest in seven months, rebounding from a record low at 30.1 registered in the preceding month. The reading remains below the 50 “boom-bust” level, suggesting that manufacturing continued to shrink but at a slower pace. Looking at the details of the report, the Production and New Orders components of the metric saw the most improvement while Inventories and Input Prices fell. This is cautiously encouraging news for the sector that employs over 21% of Australia’s labor force: rising orders and depleting inventories suggest firms are seeing a bit of a pick-up in demand, feeding hopes of eventual stabilization in employment and consumption.
Australian Retail Sales continued to trend broadly higher: although receipts added a bit less than expected on a month-to-month basis (0.3% vs. 0.5% forecast), annualized sales grew 6.8% in the year to April, the most since January 2008. Retail activity is likely being supported by fiscal stimulus: the government has provided every Australian with A$950 in cash handouts since March. Sales of household goods outperformed, rising 3.9%. Although consumers’ willingness to commit to bigger-ticket purchases is heartening, it remains to be seen if momentum can be maintained after the fiscal boost is exhausted. Indeed, continued weakness in discretionary spending suggests Australians view the handouts as temporary relief and reflect expectations of lower spending power in the future.
Still, the antipodean economy is hardly out of the woods. TD Securities’ inflation estimate revealed that the annual pace of price growth fell to 1.5% in May, the lowest reading on record, while Company Operating Profits fell much more than economists expected in the first quarter, shedding -7.2%. This highlights that while the pace of decline may moderate over the coming months, a meaningful return to vibrant growth and employment is farther out on the horizon. Indeed, the economy is expected to continue to shrink through the end of this year with a modest rebound seen in the first quarter of 2010.
Euro Session: What to Expect
The UK Purchasing Manager Index is set to show that manufacturing contracted at a slower pace in May, rising to 44.0 from 42.9 in the previous month. On balance, only a print above the 50 “boom-bust” level is likely to have any substantial impact on the British Pound with sector weakness having been priced in for some time now. The data is most likely going to take a back seat to risk trends: US equity index futures are trading higher ahead of the opening bell in Europe suggesting risky assets will continue to advance, threatening safety-linked currencies (most notably the US Dollar) with continued selling pressure.
Written by Ilya Spivak, Currency Analyst