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Bank of Japan stays on hold, UK public finances in focus

European markets saw a cautious but broadly positive start to the week, despite weakness in basic resources which served to weigh on the FTSE100.

US markets picked up where they left off on Friday with new record highs for the Dow, S&P500 and Nasdaq 100 although we did see a loss of momentum heading into the close, as US yields rebounded off their lows of the day.

The tentative nature of yesterday’s gains appears to be being driven by a degree of caution ahead of some key risk events over the next couple of weeks, starting today with the latest Bank of Japan policy decision. This is set to be followed by the European Central Bank on Thursday, and then the Fed and Bank of England next week.

For most of this month central banks have been keen to reset the policy narrative when it comes to the timing of rate cuts which had markets pricing in the prospect of an early move.

While US markets have managed to shrug off the prospect of a delay to possible rate cuts, markets in Europe have struggled with the concept probably due to the weakness of the underlying economy relative to how the US economy has been performing. There is a sense that the ECB is over prioritising the battle against inflation which is coming down rapidly and not seeing the damage that is being done to the wider economy by keeping rates higher than they need to be.

Today’s Bank of Japan decision didn’t offer up any surprises with the central bank keeping monetary policy unchanged against a backdrop that has seen market expectations of rate cuts from other central banks increase markedly since the last Fed meeting. This shift in expectations has helped to ease some of the pressure on the BoJ to look at tightening policy itself to slow the decline of its own currency.

The bank also cut its inflation forecast for this year from 2.8% to 2.4%, while nudging its 2025 forecast slightly higher to 1.8%.

Asia markets have seen a more upbeat session on reports that Chinese authorities are looking at a package of stimulus measures to help stabilise the stock market, which could come as soon as next week.

Despite this more positive tone European markets look set to open only modestly firmer, with the only economic data of note due today being the latest public finance data from the UK for December. 

As far as UK government borrowing is concerned rising interest costs at the beginning of Q4 served to exert upward pressure on the headline numbers, pushing borrowing up to £16bn in October, the second highest October number since 1993.

Since those October peaks, gilt yields have declined sharply, along with headline inflation, helping to ease borrowing costs in the mortgage market. This weakness has also come as a welcome relief to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after UK 10-year yields fell to a low of 3.44%, down from a peak of 4.73% in October.

These lower interest costs are likely to see December borrowing slow to £14.1bn, while January could see a surplus as end of year tax payments boost the numbers.

EUR/USD – currently has support at the 200-day SMA at 1.0840. A break below here and the 1.0800 level targets the 1.0720 area. Currently capped at the 50-day SMA with main resistance up at 1.1000. 

GBP/USD – remains resilient with support just above the 50-day SMA and 1.2590 area. We need to get above 1.2800 to maintain upside momentum. Also have support at the 200-day SMA at 1.2550.

EUR/GBP – continues to find support at the 0.8540/50 level which has held over the last 2-months. A fall through here could see further falls towards the 0.8520 area. We still have resistance at the 0.8620/25 area and the highs last week.

USD/JPY – has retreated modestly from the 148.50 area but remains on course for the 150.00 level. Pullbacks likely to find support at the 146.25 level cloud support as well as the 50-day SMA.


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