- Evens Again
The US dollar moved radically toward parity with the euro, following a perceived ‘flight to quality’ as international investors moved out of the European currency. The last time the two currencies were this close was in 2003. By the end of the month, though, the fever had cooled a little as Fed Chairman Janet Yellen made more pacifying noises about an early rate rise.
- Looking Good
Strong US growth was also hinted at by encouraging employment statistics. Meanwhile the Federal Reserve was thought to have advanced its plans for a raising of US interest rates, probably by mid-year.
- QE Gets Under Way
Quantitative easing in the euro zone got under way, as the European Central Bank started buying in Eurozone government bonds, often at low or even negative yields. Greek bonds are not eligible for support within the current scheme.
- Falling Down
UK construction output fell by 2.6% in January, sharply below economists’ expectations of a 1.2% rise. It was the biggest fall since November 2013, and contrasted with a 0.6% increase in December. Housebuilding activity fell by 5% over the month, commercial building by 6.6% and new infrastructure work by 2.7%.
- Yakkety Yak
More than a billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2014, according to Gartner research. Global champion Samsung faced tightening competition from Apple after the iPhone 6 was launched.
- Fool’s Gold
The FTSE-100 finally beat its end-1999 record in late February – in nominal terms, at least, In real inflation-adjusted terms it would have needed to be 53% higher.
- Raise the Red Retirement Age
China announced plans to raise the retirement age for both men and women, with effect from 2017. Men currently retire at 60, and women frequently leave work at 50. The over-60s are expected to grow from 15% of the population today to 40% by 2050.
- Stamp of Success
Stamp duty revenues on UK residential house sales grew by 24% in 2014-2015 to a record high of £8bn, according to figures from the Halifax building society. But revenues have fallen since the changes contained in the December autumn budget statement.
- Yee Haw
The Nasdaq, a bellwether for confidence in US tech stocks, closed above 5,000 for the first time since March 2000. The S&P 500 had long been in record territory.
- We Interrupt this Service…
Bitcoin values sulked around the $285 mark in mid-March – a significant improvement on the $175 level of mid-January but still 35% down on the values of last November. Bitcoin miners had been hit by a wave of denial of service attacks during early March.
- Moscow Chops
Russia cut its interest rates to 14%, the second drop in two months, as concerns grew about the viability of economic growth in view of its heavy dependence on depressed oil and gas prices. The central bank has estimated that GDP will fall by as much as 4pc this year. Meanwhile, President Putin’s apparent absence from the public sphere set tongues wagging both at home and abroad.
- Real Pain
The Brazilian real continued its worsening slide against foreign currencies, having now lost more than 40% against last summer’s dollar rates. There were riots in many cities against perceived corruption and political incompetence in the government, which only began its new term in January. Meanwhile, the central bank’s forecasts of a 0.66% economic shrinkage in 2015 are looking too rosy for comfort.