EUR/USD slid sharply on Thursday, as the ECB surprised the markets and cut interest rates by 0.25%, to 0.25%. The euro reacted sharply to the news, dropping over 100 points on the day. The pair has stabilized on Friday, trading just above the 1.34 line. In economic news, French releases disappointed, as Industrial Production declined and the trade deficit widened. However, Germany’s trade surplus surged to its highest levels in almost six years. Over in the US, all eyes are on Non-Farm Employment Change, with the markets bracing for a weak reading. There are two other key events out of the US on Friday – the Unemployment Rate and Preliminary UoM Consumer Sentiment. The week wraps up with Federal Reserve head Bernard Bernanke addressing an IMF event in Washington.
The ECB surprised the markets on Thursday when it reduced its benchmark interest rates by 0.25%, to a record low rate of 0.25%. The marginal rate was cut to 0.75% from 1.0%, while the deposit rate was left at unchanged at 0.0%. Following the decision, ECB head Mario Draghi stated that inflation in the Eurozone remains very low and that this would likely continue in the coming months. He added that futher monetary easing remained an option until economic conditions improved. The markets had expected the ECB to hold rates at 0.50%, but the combination of weak growth and inflation well below the ECB’s target of 2% led to the ECB cutting rates for the first time since April.
US employment numbers will be in the spotlight on Friday, with the release of Non-Farm Payrolls and the Unemployment Rate. NFP, a critical event which could move EUR/USD, is expected to fall to 121 thousand in October. However, it should be noted that the government shutdown in October resulted in some workers being removed from payrolls, which would explain the low October forecast. On Thursday, Unemployment Claims looked solid, coming in at 336 thousand, matching the forecast. An unexpectedly strong NFP release would likely fuel speculation of a possible QE tapering in December.
The French economy continues to disappoint, as Industrial Production declined 0.5%, well off the estimate of a 0.4% gain. This marked the fourth decline for the manufacturing indicator in five releases. The trade surplus widened to -5.8 billion euros in October, a four-month high. This was well off the forecast of -4.7 billion. To add oil to the fire, the Standard and Poor’s credit rating agency downgraded France’s sovereign rating one notch, from AA+ to AA. In October, S&P stated that although France had emerged from the recession, long-term growth prospects were “mired in risks and uncertainties”. However, the outlook has improved from negative to stable, meaning that another downgrade is unlikely in the next two years.
Germany is the Eurozone’s largest economy, so the Eurozone and the euro are sensitive to German releases. This week’s data has been a mixed bag, making it difficult to predict in which direction the German economy is headed. Factory Orders jumped 3.3% in October, bouncing back from a decline of 0.3% in September. This was well above the estimate of 0.6%. However, Industrial Production failed to keep pace, posting a decline of 0.9%, compared to a strong 1.4% the month before. The estimate stood at 0.2%. The week ended on a strong note, as Trade Balance widened to 18.8 billion, up from 15.6 billion the month before. It was the highest reading since December 2007.