Here is what you need to know on Thursday, February 18:
The dollar has taken a breather after rising in response to robust US retail sales on Wednesday, with jobless claims now in focus as President Biden continues pushing for stimulus. .The Fed's minutes have shown optimism on growth and no inflation worries. Bitcoin and Ethereum hit new all-time highs while gold is pressured.
US Retail Sales figures smashed all expectations with a leap of 5.3% in January, far above expectations. While covid-skewed seasonal adjustments may have amplified the rise, the most recent stimulus checks have also boosted sales. Bonds were sold off and the dollar advanced. Stocks retreated as the "good news is bad news" narrative kicked in – a lower chance of robust stimulus.
Nevertheless, President Joe Biden continues pushing to pass his $1.9 trillion covid relief package. Comments from Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat, are eyed. Any opposition to one of the measures can limit the scope of the package as Democrats only have a razor-thin majority in the upper chamber.
The Federal Reserve's meeting minutes seem somewhat more concerned about financial risk than previously voiced. On the other hand, officials at the world's most powerful central bank seemed unmoved by rising inflation expectations. Weekly jobless claims stand out on Thursday's economic calendar. A minor drop from last weeks 793,000 is on the cards.
WTI Oil has been extending its gains as US crude output has dropped by around 40% due to the "deep freeze" storm in Texas and elsewhere. Many Americans are stuck without electricity for long days. Texas has banned exporting fuel and gas out of the state.
Bitcoin has been extending its gains, topping the $52,000 level and extending its steady march. Ethereum has joined the party by hitting new all-time-highs above $1,900.
Vaccine: The Pfizer/BioNTech jab has proved less effective against the South African variant in a lab test. On the other hand, new data has shown that one dose of the vaccine is 93% effective after two weeks and the firm urges using a single dose.
Australia reported a rise of 29,1000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate fell to 6.4%, better than expected.
UK COVID-19 cases continue dropping sharply, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ease restrictions. GBP/USD remains below 1.3850.
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