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Our analysts have their fingers on the pulse of the world's financial market news.

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Pound gains on solid manufacturing data
The pound is a better bid following the 0.7% expansion in UK manufacturing production during the month of January. Having triumphed against the 1.42 offers against the US dollar, the pound is now ready to grasp the 1.43 mark, which had been damaged after David Cameron fixed the Brexit referendum date two weeks ago.

Despite a fairly enthusiastic start in London, the FTSE failed to take over the 6150p level. The sideways consolidation lingers as utilities, consumer staples and telecommunication companies lead gains. Financials are in better shape with HSBC and Prudential ahead of the race.

HSBC (+0.81%) won approval to start a credit-card business in China. Clearly, investors have dollars sparkling in their eyes as HSBC prepares to open the golden door of a trillion dollar market.

Prudential (+1.36%) raised the full year ordinary dividend up 5% to 38.78p/share and announced a special dividend of 10p/share. In the current low return environment, an increase in dividends is clearly good news for investors. Although the pre-tax profit missed estimates (£ 3.15bn versus £ 3.58bn estimate), the 19.3% increase, thanks to a rise in life insurance sales in Asia, gives hope for the future.

Aberdeen Asset Management (+1.05%) has more than halved fees on three funds, reported the Daily Mail. Investors welcomed the idea and lower fees could help to increase the AUM and enhance revenues.

Tesco (+0.5%) is looking to buy O2 out of a joint venture by acquiring the part of Tesco Mobile it does not already own. (Telegraph) This is combined with news that the decline in Tesco’s retail sales has slowed over the past 12 weeks (compared to the previous period), investors could find further conviction to push the share price up to 200/205.90p (Oct’15 peak).

LSE (+0.60%) and Deutsche Boerse may announce a merger as soon as next week. Reuters reported that Deutsche Boerse and the London Stock Exchange are targeting cost savings of more than 300 million euros ($331 million) once a merger of the two exchanges is completed, three people familiar with the matter said. The FT wrote ‘Banks, investors will be promised as much as $7bn in efficiency savings on trading […] Benefits would come mostly from harmonizing the IT the two companies used. After having jumped by 40% on merger news, LSE shares consolidate gains at record high levels. We monitor closely the latest developments on merger talks.


BoC, RBNZ and ECB in focus

Euro remains on the sidelines before tomorrow’s critical ECB meeting, where Mr. Draghi will be playing his credibility and many would be thrilled to be in his shoes. The market expects at least a 10 basis point cut in deposit rates and a potential 10 billion euro expansion in monthly bond purchases. It is worth remembering that in December, a 10 basis point deposit rate cut and the 6-month expansion in the QE program had very surprisingly resulted in a 5 figure rally against the US dollar, even though the Fed raised the Federal funds rate by 25 basis points over the same month. The memories are fresh enough to pull us back from calling euro depreciation, which in normal circumstances would have been the reasonable expectation as a result of another negative rate cut. Today, it is all about Mr. Draghi’s capacity to convince the market that additional measures could foster the economic recovery and eventually generate inflation. The EURUSD is expected to remain rangebound between the 100 and 200-day moving averages (1.0912 and 1.1045). Vanilla calls are however ready to support a move above the 1.1050 strike at today’s expiry.

Overseas, the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will give policy verdicts today and are both expected to maintain their respective rates unchanged at 0.50% and 2.50%. The recovery in oil prices continues to lend support to the Loonie. The Canadian dollar reached the 200-day moving average (0.7526) for the first since September 2014 and a further recovery in oil prices could help the USDCAD clearing the 200-dma resistance and pave the way toward the 78 cent level.
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