May currency review

BACK in June 2014, King Juan Carlos of Spain announced his abdication after 39 years at the throne, Rafael Nadal won the French Open for a record ninth time and £1 bought €1.23.

Sterling sank to this modest level against the single currency for the first time in almost two years in early April thanks to ongoing Brexit concerns, which were compounded by the release of some very negative UK data.

For example, it was announced that the UK current account deficit is -£32bn – the worst figures since 1948 when records began – revealing a huge gap compared to the estimate of -£20bn.

Having also enjoyed six-month highs against the US dollar in the first week of the month, the euro's run against the greenback and pound was ended by an improvement in risk sentiment, a sprinkling of poor EU data and the realisation that member economies such as Italy are in a rather perilous position.

It came as no particular surprise that the European Central Bank (ECB) did not make any change to its monetary policy in April.

Even less of a surprise was President Draghi’s obligatory comment that stimulus could be stepped up if necessary.

This dovish commentary suggesting the economic tools used last month by ECB were more than enough for the job and the only way is up for the euro, was unable to supress investor concerns surrounding the state of the Greek and Italian economies – precipitating a bout of euro weakness.

Whether you agree with US President Barack Obama weighing into the Brexit debate or not, there is no denying his influence in such high profile matters.

Having travelled to London to inform the UK public that the country “…is going to be at the back of the queue," for a trade deal with the US if it leaves the EU, the ‘Stay’ campaign would have been heartened to see the pound achieve four successive days of strong performance against the euro.

The Euroland economic statistics did the euro no favours.

There were improvements in business and investor sentiment and Germany's economy expanded by a provisional 0.8% in the first quarter, but German retail sales were weak and consumer prices there fell by -0.2% in April.

And if the plight of Greece and Italy weren’t giving the ECB enough of a headache, Portugal’s economic future has begun to look increasingly gloomy after it transpired that its credit rating is at risk of being cut to a non-investment grade, AKA "junk".

Any move to do so by the ‘Big Three’ credit rating agencies would render the country’s bonds ineligible for purchase by the European Central Bank.

As April drew to a close, the euro was boosted by news that Eurozone GDP had grown by 0.6% compared to the estimate of 0.4%, and the blocs unemployment figures are at their strongest level – 10.2% – since 2011.

Inflation remains worryingly low, but investors appeared to overlook this in favour of the positive economic growth in the region, which stimulated the euro to its best level to buy the US dollar since 2015 and put paid to sterling’s recent run of form against the single currency.