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UK CPI set to tee up tomorrow’s Bank of England rate decision

We’ve seen a lacklustre start to the week for markets in Europe, as well as the US as disappointment over a weak China stimulus plan, gave investors the excuse to start taking some profits after the gains of recent weeks. Weakness in energy prices also reinforced doubts about the sustainability of the global economy as we head towards the second half of this year.

As we look towards today’s European open the main focus is on the latest UK inflation numbers for May ahead of tomorrow's Bank of England rate decision.

Today’s UK CPI numbers could make tomorrow’s rate decision a much less complicated decision than it might be, especially if the numbers show a clear direction of travel when it comes to a slowing of price pressures. Nonetheless, whatever today’s inflation numbers are, we still expect to see a 25bps rate hike tomorrow, however what we won’t want to see is another upside surprise given recent volatility in short term gilt yields.   

When the April inflation numbers were released, there was a widespread expectation that headline inflation would fall back sharply below 10% and to the lowest levels since March last year. That did indeed happen, although not by as much as markets had expected, falling to 8.7%.

It was also encouraging to see PPI input and output prices slow more than expected in April on an annual basis, to 3.9% and 5.4% respectively.

Unfortunately, this is where the good news ended as while we saw inflation fall back in April it wasn’t as deep a fall as expected with many hoping that we’d see headline inflation slow to 8.2%.

The month-on-month figure was much hotter than expected at 1.2% and core prices surged from 6.2% to 6.8%, and the highest level since 1990.

The areas where inflation is still looking hot is around grocery prices which saw an annual rise of 19.1%, only modestly lower than the 19.2% in March, while services inflation in hotels and restaurants slowed from 11.3% to 10.2%.

Since then, food price inflation has slowed to levels of around 16.5%, still very high, while today’s headline number is forecast to slow to 8.5%. More worryingly core prices aren’t expected to change at all, remaining at 6.8%, however if we are to look for crumbs of comfort then we should be looking at PPI where in China and Germany we are in deflation.

Given that this tends to be more forward-looking we could find that by Q3 headline CPI could fall quite sharply. Both PPI input and output prices are expected to both decline on a month-on-month basis, while year on year input prices are expected to rise by 1.1%.

In the afternoon, market attention will shift to Washington DC and today’s testimony by Fed chair Jerome Powell to US lawmakers in the wake of last week’s decision to hold rates at their current levels, while issuing rather hawkish guidance that they expect to hike rates by another 50bps by year end.

This was a little surprising given that inflation appears to be a problem that could be subsiding. Powell is likely to also face further questions from his nemesis Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren who is likely to further press the Federal Reserve Chairman on the costs that further rate hikes might have in terms of higher unemployment.

Her dislike for Powell is well documented calling him a “dangerous man”, however despite these comments her fears of higher unemployment haven’t materialised despite 500bps of rate hikes in the past 15 months.

We could also get further insights into last week’s discussions with a raft of Fed speakers from the likes of Christopher Waller, Michelle Bowman, James Bullard and Loretta Mester this week. 

EUR/USD – currently holding above the 50-day SMA at 1.0870/80 which should act as support. We still remain on course for a move towards the April highs at the 1.1095 area, while above 1.0850.

GBP/USD – slipped back from 1.2845/50 area sliding below 1.2750 with the next support at the 1.2680 area. Still on course for a move towards the 1.3000 area, while above the 50-day SMA currently at 1.2510. 

EUR/GBP – found support at the 0.8515/20 area with resistance at the 0.8580 level. While below the 0.8620 area bias remains for a move toward the 0.8470/80 area.

USD/JPY – slipped back from just below the next resistance at 142.50 which is 61.8% retracement of the 151.95/127.20 down move. Above 142.50 targets the 145.00 area. Support now comes in at 140.20/30.

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