Turmoil. There was no fresh news of relevance, but risk markets plunged globally on the growing wall of worry that some European nations may default on their debt and imperil the future of the Eurozone. Eurostoxx 50 futures are currently down 7%, and the S&P500 was down 9% an hour ago (automated selling errors may have contributed) but has recovered to -3.5% currently. The VIX index of risk aversion spiked to 41, a level last seen in April 2009. The commodities basket fell 1.9% overall, with oil plunging 4.6%, copper 2.4%, but gold doing its job at +2.0% to a December high of $1198. US 10yr treasuries shed 16bp (at one point it was +28bp), and the 2-10yr curve flattened 4bp. US 3mth Libor rose 1.3bp - a sign Eurozone contagion is affecting dollar funding costs.
The US dollar index surged again to a fresh 12-month high of 85.27 (from 84.20 at the Sydney close), and sits just under 85.00 currently. The EUR was severely damaged, from around 1.2800 to 1.2529, last seen in March 2009. The ECB at its meeting produced nothing for those hoping for at least a discussion of measures to curb the panic. GBP also made a 12 month low at 1.4718, nervous ahead of the UK elections result. The yen was a massive outperformer (up around 5%), with the CHF the only other positive currency on the day. USD/JPY fell from 94.00 to 88.26, and is currently just under 90.00.
AUD fell from the Sydney close around 0.9050 to 0.8715, recovering partially to 0.8865.
NZD fell from around 0.7250 to 0.7011, recovering to 0.7120. AUD/NZD ranged wildly between 1.2420 and 1.2540, currently at 1.2430.
US productivity grew at a 3.6% annualised pace in Q1, down from 6.3% in Q4, essentially reflecting the slower pace of GDP growth although hours worked rose less than available data had suggested, preventing a steeper productivity slowdown in Q1. Unit labour costs fell -1.6% annualised compared to -5.6% in Q4, a function of the slower productivity story.
US initial jobless claims fell 6k to 444k last week, extending the recent renewed downtrend although claims are still higher than the Feb-Mar lows. Continuing claims fell in the prior week.
Fedspeak: Chairman Bernanke said he's optimistic that banks will ease up credit conditions but he still fretted about commercial property; Richmond Fed's Lacker said that current low inflation my deflect attention from future inflation risk; St Louis Fed's Bullard said the job market was improving slowly.
European Central Bank left rates on hold at 1.00% after the May Council meeting. The press conference was dominated by Greek budget issues and the risk of contagion across southern Europe. Sounding at times frustrated, ECB chief Trichet revealed that the Council did not discuss embarking on a quantitative easing program - buying member government bonds off the banks to inject more cash into the system. He insisted that Spanish and Portuguese budget issues were not the same as the challenges confronting Greece.
German factory orders soared 5.0% in March, continuing the recovery from last year's collapse (though industrial output remains weak).
UK services PMI slowed from 56.5 to 55.3 in April, its second decline in a row. UK election results are not expect before local time at the earliest.
Canadian Ivey PMI was little changed at 58.7 in April but March building permits jumped 12.2% with both residential and non-res strong.
AUD/USD and NZD/USD outlook next 24 hours: Until the Eurozone-inspired turmoil subsides, daily forecasting will be difficult. AUD's suggested range for today is 0.8700-0.9000, while for NZD it is 0.7000-0.7250.
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