In early trading on Tuesday, the Swiss franc showed strength against its major counterparts despite disappointing economic reports from Switzerland. The franc thus climbed to a 4-day high against the US dollar and the Japanese yen while recovered from a 4-day low versus the British pound.
The Swiss UBS consumption indicator dropped to 0.89 in February from 0.92 last month, the UBS said today. The indicator thus continued its downward trend and remained below its long-term average of 1.5 for the fifth consecutive month.
The indicator signals that consumer spending will rise slightly, however prospects are becoming increasingly gloomy. Unemployment would possibly rise considerably in the months ahead, which will impact consumption tendencies negatively. But falling inflation is likely to bolster purchasing power, the UBS added. The UBS forecasts a modest rise of 0.4% this year, following a real 1.7% increase in consumer spending last year.
Meanwhile, Switzerland's current account surplus totaled CHF12 billion in the fourth quarter, down from a surplus of CHF16.7 billion in the third quarter, a report by the Swiss National Bank said.
In the fourth quarter, the surplus in the goods account decreased to CHF3.5 billion from CHF4 billion in the preceding quarter. The surplus in the services account declined to CHF9.8 billion from CHF 13.5 billion.
Against the US dollar, the Swiss franc edged higher during early deals on Tuesday. At 5:35 am ET, the franc reached a high of 1.1392 against the dollar, compared to 1.1486 hit late New York Monday. This set a 4-day high for the Swiss currency. The next upside target level for the franc is seen around 1.130.
The Swiss franc that closed Monday's North American session at 1.5161 against the European currency climbed to 1.5141 at 4:00 am ET Tuesday. The euro-franc pair is currently trading at 1.5158 with 1.509 seen as the next target level.
The German unemployment rate for March, French housing starts for February, Italian retail sales for January and the euro-zone CPI estimate-both for the month of March, which were released today likely influenced the euro.
Germany's Federal Statistical Office said today in a report that the ILO jobless rate stood at 7.4% in February, up from 7.3% in January. A year ago, the jobless rate was 7.6%.
The Italian statistical office ISTAT said retail sales rose 0.7% year-on-year in January, while economists anticipated 2% fall. A decline of 0.3% in food sales was offset by an annual 1.2% increase in non-food sales. Month-on-month, sales were up 0.3% in January compared to a fall of 0.2% expected by economists.
France's Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Planning and Development reported today that housing starts dropped 22.1% year-on-year in the three months to February. This comes after a 20.2% fall in the three months to January.
According to a flash estimate from the Eurostat, Eurozone annual inflation slowed to 0.6% in March from 1.2% in February. Inflation has eased to its lowest level since the launch of euro ten years ago.
A report from the Federal Labor Agency showed today that seasonally adjusted unemployed rose 69,000 in March, bigger than 50,000 increased in February. Economists had expected a relatively small increase of 52,000. Meanwhile, the jobless rate rose to 8.1%, while economists had forecast the rate to remain at February's revised 8%.
Against the British pound, the Swiss franc gained ground after hitting a 4-day low of 1.6436 at 2:45 am ET Tuesday. The franc is currently trading at 1.6291 against the pound, compared to Monday's closing value of 1.6390. On the upside, 1.609 is seen as the next target level for the Swiss currency.
UK's sterling rallied today in Asian deals after a report showed that UK consumer sentiment indicator rose unexpectedly in March.
Consumer confidence was higher for the second consecutive month in Great Britain, data consolidator GfK said, suggesting that measures to end the recession are starting to take hold. The increase was the highest level since May after the Bank of England slashed interest rates to a record low 0.5 percent.
The consumer confidence index came in at -30 versus analyst expectations for a score of -37 following the -35 reading in February. British consumers became more optimistic about the general economic outlook over the next 12 months, also upgrading their assessment of the state of the economy over the past 12 months.
Extending Asian session gains, the Swiss franc rose to a 4-day high of 86.39 against the Japanese yen at 5:50 am ET Tuesday. If the pair gains further, 87.7 is seen as the next target level. The franc-yen pair closed Monday's New York deals at 84.73.
The yen weakened across the board after a government report revealed that Japan's jobless rate rose a 3-year high.
Japan's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate came in at 4.4 percent in February, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said today - slightly higher that forecasts for a 4.3 percent increase after the 4.1 percent increase in January.
In addition, Japan's housing starts dropped 24.9% year-on-year in February, after declining 18.7% in January. Economists expected a drop of 17.6%. This was the third consecutive month of decline in housing starts.
On the other hand, Japan's small business confidence showed an unexpected improvement in March and is expected to improve further in April. The Shoko Chukin Bank said its small business confidence indicator rose to 30.4 from February's 25, while the consensus forecast was a decline to 24.3.
Turning to the US, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, which tracks monthly changes in the value of residential real estate in 20 metropolitan regions across the U.S., is scheduled to be released at 9 AM ET. Economists expect an 18.5% year-over-year decline in the 20-city composite house price index for January.
The Conference Board is scheduled to release its consumer confidence report for March at about 10 am ET. The survey, which is based on a survey of 5,000 US households, is expected to show that the consumer confidence index remained rise to 27 in March.
The results of the National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago's business survey for March are scheduled to be released at 9:45 AM ET. Economists expect the business barometer index based on the survey, to be at 34.7.
Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser is scheduled to deliver a speech on regulatory reform to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business at 1 PM ET.
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