NEW YORK ( BBH FX Strategy) -- The Norwegian krone and Swedish krona are the strongest major currencies Friday, appreciating about 0.85% and 0.6% respectively. While the fundamental justification of the more modest gains in the other major foreign currencies may be more elusive, in the Scandi's case, fundamental developments are supportive.
Sweden reported stronger business and manufacturing confidence numbers earlier this week, but the February retail sales report was a more significant catalyst. Retail sales rose 1.2% in February. The consensus was for a 0.1% rise. The Riksbank's Ekholm suggested Friday the economy appears to have bottomed after a 1.1% contraction in fourth quarter. This week's data seems to further rule out a rate cut in April, which many had previously expected.
If monetary policy may be less accommodative, fiscal policy appears to be a bit looser. The budget authority today revised this year's forecast to a deficit of SEK13 billion from a surplus of SEK1 billion. Similarly, next year is now projected to have a budget deficit of SEK11 billion rather than a surplus of SEK14 billion. As a percent of GDP, this year's deficit is a minor 0.7%, the envy of most of the OECD.