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Trading Performance 2017-2018

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U.S. retail sales rebounded sharply in October as purchases of motor vehicles and building materials surged, but data for the prior two months was revised lower and the underlying trend suggested that consumer spending was probably slowing down.

Still, the report on Thursday from the Commerce Department showed broad gains in sales ahead of the holiday shopping season, which bodes well for consumer spending and the overall economy as the fourth quarter gets under way.

Retail sales increased 0.8% last month. Retail sales in September slipped 0.1% instead of rising 0.1% and sales in August were also weaker than previously thought.

The market had forecast retail sales increasing 0.5% in October. Sales rose 4.6% from a year ago.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales increased 0.3% last month. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Data for September was revised lower to show core retail sales rising 0.3% instead of gaining 0.5% as previously reported. Core retail sales fell 0.2% in August rather than being unchanged.

Strong domestic demand and a tightening labor market support views that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates in December for the fourth time this year. The U.S. central bank last Thursday kept rates unchanged, but said data "indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a strong rate."

Yesterday evening, Theresa May announced there had been “collective” cabinet approval of the draft withdrawal text. This paves the way for an extraordinary European Council meeting on 25 November to sign off the deal, followed by a vote in the UK parliament likely before the end of the year. There remains a big question mark over whether the UK parliament will approve the deal. In her statement, Theresa May predicted there would be difficult days ahead, expecting a political backlash, and warned that it was either her deal, no deal or “no Brexit at all”, the first time she has mentioned the possibility of reversing Brexit, in what amounts to a thinly-veiled threat to the euroskeptic rebels in her party.

Brexit Minister Dominic Raab and three other ministers resigned in protest against May’s plan fuelling a selloff in the pound which was already struggling to gain traction after May said on Wednesday she had won over her divided cabinet after a five-hour meeting.

The draft 585-page withdrawal treaty was published in full last night. It includes the agreement on citizens’ rights, the GBP 39bn financial settlement, the 21-month status quo transition where the UK would apply EU law in full but without a say (and the possibility of a one-off extension of the transition period to an as yet unspecified date “20xx” by mutual agreement), and the Irish border “backstop”. The Irish border “backstop” ties the UK to a customs union with the EU and will come into force when the transition period ends, unless and until the future relationship removes the need for it. The “backstop” includes “level-playing field” provisions on state aid, competition, tax, and social and environmental standards. The “backstop” has no end date, potentially determining the UK’s relationship with the EU for many years to come, and a joint committee would decide when it was no longer needed. Northern Ireland would remain aligned to EU single market rules and regulation in agricultural and all products, meaning regulatory checks in the Irish Sea, although the UK has made unilateral promises to minimize divergence with EU rules for goods.

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