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Bank of England and ECB in focus

CMC Markets

European markets look set to open pretty much where they closed yesterday with central bank meetings at the forefront of events. The Bnak of Japan left policy unchanged earlier today at Mr Shirakawa's last meeting and the main focus now moves onto the Bank of England and the European Central Bank. Given the recent weakness of both the pound and the euro in recent days it would appear that markets are expecting some form of monetary easing today from both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, though any ECB measures are more likely to be implied rather than actual. In the Bank of England’s case the markets do appear to be gearing up for a resumption of the asset purchase scheme given the recent splits amongst policymakers over last month’s decision. This week’s disappointing “funding for lending” numbers would also appear to have given a boost to the doves, which seems a rather odd state of affairs when to date most of the £375bn worth of QE done since 2009, appears to be sitting on banks’ balance sheets. This fact was pretty much acknowledged by the Bank Governor in November last year in the inflation report when he stated that there was little else he could do to boost the UK’s growth prospects given policy failures around the world to co-ordinate structural changes. He cited concerns about rising inflation as one of his key concerns, and given the pounds precipitous drop since January that will be even more of a concern today Mr King has gone to great lengths to extol the benefits of a weaker pound in recent weeks and it would appear that he has achieved that, which in a way rather negates the need to do more easing and for all the good an extra £25bn would do it would probably be simpler to hold off for now given the surprise rebound in services PMI seen in February. Given the questionable success of QE thus far in boosting the economy doing more now would appear to have all the hallmarks of desperation, and could prompt a sterling rout. Holding off would also allow more time for the funding for lending program to gain extra traction, and also head off criticism from savers and pension funds unhappy at plunging annuity rates. While it would only need two more MPC members to come over to the doves way of thinking I would suggest that the Bank could well keep policy unchanged for now, given this week’s strong rebound in some of the retail data, and the pounds fragility on the currency markets. Over at the European Central Bank there is unlikely to be any change in policy for this month, however as with all things with respect to the ECB it will all be about the nuances of President Draghi’s press conference. Mr Draghi will in all likelihood continue to point to the stabilisation in financial markets, while keeping policy “accommodative” though he is likely to adjust downward growth forecasts for 2013 and 2014, while at the same time urging governments to stick to their reform programs. It will be interesting to see if the interest rate decision is unanimous, given recent economic data, because if it isn’t that could well trigger some further weakness. He will also likely reiterate that the exchange rate is not a policy target, and is only a factor when determining the inflationary outlook. In the US the latest weekly jobless claims numbers are expected to come in at 354k, up from 344k, while the January trade numbers are expected to show an increase in the deficit to $42.6bn, from the surprisingly narrow $38.5bn deficit seen in December. As far as company news is concerned we have a number of trading statements and end of year reports due out. Starting with the likes of temporary power provide Aggreko who helped power the London Olympics while we also have construction company Balfour Beatty. The insurance sector will also once again be back in focus again today following on from Admiral Group and Legal & General full year reports yesterday with Standard Life and Aviva preliminary earning figures with the latter being the first since last year’s announcement of a restructuring plan under the leadership of their new CEO . Markets will be paying particular interest to the progress the new plan is making In Europe German sports giant Adidas look set to release their full year’s earnings in-line with estimations . Particular interest will be around their earnings outlook for November 2013 and their continued out performance in China.