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Radar on Thursdays ECB rate decision

Last month the European Central Bank (ECB) surprised the markets by only cutting interest rates by 25 basis points to 1.25%- a record low but when compared against the UK interest rates of 0.5% and against the US of 0-0.25% then comparatively still high in the current global climate. The market wanted to see more aggressive action amid rising unemployment and shrinking growth and all eyes will turn to the next ECB rate decision on Thursday. It is expected that another 25 basis point cut to 1% will materialize and the ECB may engage in additional "non conventional" measures- basically some form of Quantitative Easing to help the economy. The European Union’s economic affairs commissioner recently declared that the European economy was in the "midst of its deepest and most widespread recession in the post-war era" and the euro zone will contract by 4% this year- this is more than twice than forecast in January.

In addition ECB president Jean- Claude Trichet is struggling to keep the ECB’s governing council united with the 22 members split in opinion on how far interest rates should be cut and whether the ECB should buy financial assets from the banks- so much is the wrangling that a vow of silence has been imposed on officials! The German finance minister Peer Steinbruck has also noted concern that "competitive imbalances have built up within the euro area, increasing the exposure of some member states to the financial turmoil". There is also a worry of other countries losing their competitiveness within the eurozone- in particular Italy and Greece.

Stateside, the Fed plans to deliver results of stress tests on US banks to executives today that may show about 10 firms need additional capital to weather a deeper recession. An obvious way for banks to fill their capital requirements is via conversion of preference shares to common shares.

Last week, the Fed delayed the release of the tests that were originally scheduled for yesterday, as banks challenged some of the conclusions. 19 banks have been stress tested. Citigroup and Bank of America were allegedly among the banks found to need additional capital. It is rumoured that both firms disputed the Fed's determination. Yesterday Citi rose 7.7% and Bank of America 19% after denying it was working of a plan to raise $10bn. I would be surprised if we didn't hear more soundbites about the stress tests. The results are likely to be made public later this week.

GBP is performing well testing the 1.50 level against the USD. The last time we were at this level was in mid April. A break above this level opens up the 1.52 level where we saw resistance in early January. GBPEUR has rallied and is currently trading at 1.1270 level, still off the 1.1381 high seen in mid April.


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