March 24, 2022
“Britons face their biggest hit to their living standards since records began in the 1950s, despite chancellor Rishi Sunak’s measures to alleviate the cost-of-living squeeze. Inflation is set to hit a 40-year high of nearly 9% later this year, whilst economic growth has been forecast for 3.8% this year, down from October predictions of 6.0%.”
Sam Cornford, Partner – Head of Trading
President Joe Biden has arrived in Brussels at the start of a four-day trip to Europe in a bid to coordinate with NATO allies on military assistance for Ukraine, new sanctions on Russia, and the boosting of defences in Eastern Europe. The president caused a stir during a gathering of business leaders at the White House this week when he alluded to a coming “new world order” in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, apparently not stopping to consider the awkward legacy of the phrase has tied to conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, a report says that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urged Mr Biden to not sanction Roman Abramovich, as the oligarch may be able to help with Russian peace talks. The US Treasury Department was prepared to join the UK and EU with sanctions but was told by the White House to hold off.
British finance minister Rishi Sunak cut fuel duty and softened some of a looming payroll tax increase yesterday, as he sought to alleviate a severe cost-of-living squeeze against the backdrop of slowing economic growth. But with inflation set to hit a 40-year high of nearly 9% later this year, government forecasters said Britons faced the biggest hit to their living standards since records began in the late 1950s – even after Sunak’s measures. In the half-yearly budget update, Sunak set out plans to inject about 17.6 billion pounds into the economy in the coming financial year. New forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predict economic growth of 3.8% this year, much less than the 6.0% it had projected in October. But many of the factors behind the squeeze on living standards were in place before Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24th – inflation had already hit a 30-year high of 6.2% before the invasion.
Sterling is stronger against the euro and weaker against the dollar this morning. Britain and its western allies will increase the economic pressure on Russia by examining whether more can be done to prevent President Vladimir Putin from accessing gold reserves, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today. Western sanctions have frozen much of Russia’s central bank’s $640 billion in assets, barred several banks from global payments system SWIFT and hammered the rouble. Ahead of a NATO meeting in Brussels, Johnson told LBC Radio that Putin had already crossed a red line and that he should appear before the International Criminal Court. The Prime Minister also outlined Britain’s new energy security strategy, that will look to expand domestic nuclear and offshore wind capacity to bolster the country’s energy independence and bring down the cost of living in the future. Johnson is expected to set out a new strategy by the end of the month on energy security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent oil and gas prices soaring.
The euro is weaker than most major currencies in the early morning trade. European Union leaders are set to discuss Russia’s demand that “unfriendly” countries pay in roubles for Russian gas sales at a two-day summit in Brussels starting today, a senior EU official has said. In a televised meeting with top government ministers, Putin declared that the government and central bank had one week to come up with a solution on how to move these operations to the Russian currency, and that gas giant Gazprom would be ordered to make the corresponding changes to gas contracts. It will be assessed whether Moscow’s request will threaten the effectiveness of EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv has said that talks with Russia aimed at ending the war are encountering “significant difficulties” after several rounds of discussions have so far produced no ceasefire or permanent peace deal.
The dollar is well bid against most major currencies overnight. The United States government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said. The announcement follows a week after Joe Biden’s off-the-cuff remark that he considered Vladimir Putin a war criminal, triggering an official protest from the Kremlin, which warned that the comment could cause a breach in bilateral relations. Many Democrats thought their control of the White House and Congress would provide an opportunity to rein in U.S. military spending, which had leaped 140% since 2000, and to beef up social programs they felt had been neglected. However, Congress this month passed an increase in defense spending of nearly 6%, a total expected to keep rising despite President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August after 20 years of war. Kaine said Russia and China were both concerns.
U.S. and European futures rose, and Treasuries extended their slide as investors weighed the risks of rising inflation and the impact of the war in Ukraine. Oil erased gains and the dollar edged higher. Oil pared an earlier advance to trade around $114 a barrel amid reports that the U.S. and European Union are close to a deal aimed at slashing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, while President Joe Biden prepares to announce new sanctions on Russia. An MSCI Inc. gauge of Asia-Pacific equities fell for the first day in three. Shares in China and Hong Kong retreated as Tencent Holdings Ltd. weighed on tech stocks after reporting its slowest pace of quarterly growth on record. Earlier, the S&P 500 erased the prior session’s gains. Treasuries resumed their slide, while a stretch of the yield curve reached its flattest level in 15 years. The inversion of parts of this curve point to a mounting risk of a growth downturn. The extreme volatility in commodity markets caused by the conflict and global response is sapping liquidity, according to some of the world’s biggest trading houses.
Main Economic Data/Central Banks/Government (All Times CET)
8:00 a.m.: Norway Jan. Unemployment Rate
8:45 a.m.: France March Business, Manufacturing Confidence
9:00 a.m.: Hungary One-Week Deposit Rate
9:00 a.m.: Czech March Consumer, Business Confidence
9:15 a.m.: France March S&P Global Services, Manufacturing PMIs
9:30 a.m.: SNB Policy Rate
9:30 a.m.: Riksbank Report on Account of Monetary Policy in 2021
9:30 a.m.: Germany March S&P Global Services, Manufacturing PMIs
10:00 a.m.: Euro-Area March S&P Global Services, Manufacturing PMIs
10:00 a.m.: ECB publishes economic bulletin
10:00 a.m.: Norges Bank Rate Decision
10:30 a.m.: U.K. March S&P Global/CIPS Services, Manufacturing PMIs
10:30 a.m.: ECB’s Elderson speaks
11:30 a.m.: BOE final policy committee report
2:00 p.m.: BOE’s Mann speaks
8:00 p.m.: ECB’s Schnabel speaks
South Africa Rate Decision
Bank of Portugal releases March economic bulletin
Joe Biden attends NATO emergency summit in Brussels
South African investment conference with President Ramaphosa and several CEOs to speak
Earnings include Daimler Truck, Exor, Next