Global Investing

Global FTSE 100 shrugs off parochial UK GDP data

Britain’s FTSE 100 seems to be almost impervious to any bad data that can be thrown at it. GDP data shocked the market showing the UK unexpectedly contracted in the third quarter.

Sterling tumbled more than a cent against the greenbackand gilts jumped while the FTSEurofirst 300 pan-European equity index trimmed gains considerably.

But Britain’s FTSE shrugged it off, hugging its 1 percent gains in the face of data which shows the UK economy is still ailing badly.

 It is the cosmopolitan nature of the FTSE which is keeping it buoyant. Miners and energy firms make up over 32 percent of the index, while miners banks, also very much global institutions make up a further 16 percent.

Howard Wheeldon on BGC Partners says:

“The FTSE is a function of globalalisation and trading conditions and growth elsewhere in the world have more of an impact than domestic growth. If the global recession is over and demand is picking up internationally, it’s all the more reason to close your eyes to
what’s going on in the tiny island that it happens to be registered in.”

Pity Poor Pound

Britain’s pound has long been the whipping boy of notoriously fickle currency markets, but there are worrying signs that it’s not just hedge funds and speculators who have lost faith in sterling. Reuters FX columnist Neal Kimberley neatly illustrated yesterday just how poor sentiment toward sterling in the dealing rooms has become and the graphic below (on the sharp buildup of speculative ‘short’ positsions seen in U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data) shows how deeply that negative view has become entrenched.              

 While the pound’s inexorable grind down to parity with the euro captures the popular headlines, the Bank of England’s index of sterling against a trade-weighted basket of world currencies shows that weakness is pervasive. The index has lost more than a quarter of its value in little over two years — by far the worst of the G4 (dollar, euro, sterling and yen) currencies over the financial crisis. The dollar’s equivalent index has shed only about a third of the pound’s losses since mid-2007, while the euro’s has jumped about 10% and the yen’s approximately 20% over that period.

There’s no shortage of negatives — Britain’s deep recession, recent housing bust, near zero interest rates and money printing, soaring government budget deficit (forecast at more than 12% pf GDP next year, it’s the highest of the G20) and looming general election in early 2010. In the relative world of currency traders, not all of these are necessarily bad for the pound — the country is emerging tentatively from recession, the dominant financial services sector is recovering rapidly and  short-term interest rates (3-month Libor at least) do offer better returns than the dollar, yen, Swiss franc or Canadian dollar.