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UK wage growth set to give Bank of England an extra headache

European markets underwent a modestly positive start to the week despite concerns over the Chinese real estate sector which weighed on the FTSE100, as equities tried to bounce back after two weeks of declines.

US markets initially struggled during the first half of the session before rallying strongly into the close, led by the Nasdaq 100.

Asia markets, which started the week badly have been more mixed today after Japanese GDP beat forecasts, due to a boom in auto exports and tourism, and poor Chinese economic numbers, which once again disappointed.  

Despite a strong start to the year Chinese retail sales have struggled to match the performance seen in April when retail sales rose 18.4%. Since that solid gain spending patterns have struggled despite the weak comparatives of an economy that was, for the most part, subject to lockdowns and restrictions.

The May numbers saw a gain of 12.7% when the same rules applied, while June saw another slowdown to 3.1%, as the Chinese economy showed lacklustre growth of 0.8% in Q2, a sharp slowdown from the 2.2% seen in Q1.

With the start of Q3 the picture hasn’t got any better with July retail sales falling short of expectations, rising 2.5%, instead of the 4% rise expected. Industrial production also came up short, rising 3.7% instead of the 4.3% expected. The statistics bureau also didn’t include the figures for youth unemployment, which has risen sharply in recent months, with the 16-24 cohort reaching 21.3% in the June numbers.

In a sign that the numbers were going to be poor, or simply because of concerns over the property sector just before the numbers were released, Chinese authorities reduced one-year loan rates by 15bps and reduced the seven-day reverse repo rate by 10bps.

It’s set to be an important week for the UK economy, and more importantly for the Bank of England in the context of how many more rate hikes they feel will be necessary in the face of sticky core inflation and record wages growth.

Today’s wages and unemployment numbers for the 3-months to June are set give the central bank an additional headache as it looks to try and play catch-up after being slow to react to the initial inflation surge.

We’ve already seen the UK unemployment rate rise from 3.7% to 4% in the 3-months to May, since the start of the year as more people return to the workforce as the cost-of-living squeeze pushes people out of retirement.

While the unemployment rate has risen from the lows of 3.5% back in August, wage growth has also risen quite sharply over the same period, hitting a record high of 7.3% at the most recent set of numbers, and looks set to rise to a new record of 7.4% today.

Various Bank of England policymakers have expressed concern that higher wages are making it more difficult to rein in core inflation, and that workers should refrain from asking for large pay rises.

This tone-deaf response somewhat ignores the Bank of England’s role in fuelling this trend in that the reason people are asking for these pay rises is because of the central bank’s failure to nip inflation in the bud, when it became apparent to almost everyone except them, that the rise in prices was anything but transitory.

There is a sense now, however, that inflation has peaked, and although still elevated, that upward pressure on wages should start to slow, although it’s not likely to happen quickly, with inflation still over 3 times the central bank’s target, although it should slow quite sharply when the July figures are released tomorrow.

It’s also a big week for the US consumer with the release of US retail sales for July later today, and then the latest earnings numbers from Target and Walmart later this week. After a steady Q2, the US consumer has shown little sign of slowing down when it comes to spending and today’s July numbers aren’t expected to be any different with a rise of 0.4% expected.

EUR/USD – slid below the 50-day SMA yesterday falling to the 1.0875 area. The main support remains at the 1.0830 area and July lows. Still feels range bound with resistance at the 1.1030 area.

GBP/USD – slipped back to the 1.2615 area yesterday but continues to find support above the 1.2600 area. A break below 1.2600 targets 1.2400. Until then the bias is for a move back above the 1.2800 area through 1.2830 to target 1.3000.    

EUR/GBP – came under further pressure yesterday with the 100-day SMA acting as resistance at the 0.8670/80 area. Support comes in at the 0.8580 area with a break below targeting the 0.8530 area. Above the 100-day SMA targets the 0.8720 area.

USD/JPY – has broken above the previous peaks this year at 145.10, opening up the prospect of further gains towards 147.50. Support remains back at the 143.80 area; however, we could also find support at the 144.80 area.


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