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Sterling set for biggest monthly rise in more than a decade as dollar slides

The pound advanced towards $1.32 on Friday, on track for its biggest monthly rise in more than a decade as a broad-based dollar decline fuelled demand for the British currency.

But concerns of a second wave of infections, a weak economy and growing pressure to strike a Brexit trade deal before a transition period ends in December are prompting investors to become wary of the currency’s prospects in coming months.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists, who have been bearish on the pound, said the rest of 2020 could see weakness in the currency, especially as the period of August through December historically contains four negative months for sterling.

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“The fortunes of the pound will increasingly be driven by the monetary policy stance, the ability of the economy to rebound from the global pandemic, and Brexit negotiations, which are effectively stuck in the mud,” the strategists said.

On Friday, the pound rose 0.5% to $1.3159, its highest level since early March. On a monthly basis, it is up nearly 6%, its biggest rise since May 2009, according to Refinitiv data.

The pound’s gains can be attributed to the dollar’s losses.

The greenback has fallen nearly 5% in July, with most of the drop coming in the last 10 days as new cases of coronavirus surged across several U.S. states and some recent data pointed to an economic recovery losing steam.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday some lockdown easing planned for the whole of England would need to be delayed and the country’s chief medical officer said any further opening up of the economy would raise infection rates.

Concerns over the struggling economy have prompted hedge funds to unwind their bullish bets on the pound in recent weeks while derivatives data signal more weakness ahead.

Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee

Source: UK Reuters

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Sterling heads for first weekly win against dollar in four

Sterling headed for its first positive week in four against the dollar on Friday, holding below the $1.25 mark as a week of negotiations between Britain and the European Union ended prematurely, with meetings expected to resume next week.

The pound slipped briefly in morning trading in London, a move one analyst attributed to some spillover of political uncertainty in Europe following the resignation of French prime minister Eduoard Philippe and the appointment of his successor.

By 1509 GMT, the pound was trading flat to the dollar at $1.2464.

It also traded flat against the euro, at 90.16 pence.

Sterling has risen 1.2% against the dollar this month, after losing 2.7% in June.

“The more consolidative tone of the pound is likely related to the fact that it is the worst performing G10 currency on a 1 month view – investors are likely pausing and evaluating new news,” said Jane Foley, head of FX strategy at Rabobank.

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Brexit talks this week between Britain and the EU ended early on Thursday, with a meeting between the chief negotiators on Friday cancelled.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Thursday said serious divergences remained between the two sides after talks this week on their future relationship.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday he was more optimistic than Barnier that a post-Brexit trading deal could be struck, but said Britain could leave the bloc without a comprehensive agreement if needed.

Implied volatility on the pound – as shown by options markets – remains elevated compared with other currencies.

“There are some positive headlines connected with the latest Brexit talks,” Foley said.

UK Chief negotiator David Frost has described the talks as “comprehensive and useful”, she noted, while adding the fact that significant difference remain would keep investors cautious.

The longer the wait for concrete news on Brexit the more likely the pound sterling is to push lower. The huge political uncertainty suggests that volatility is likely to remain higher than other G10 peers, Foley said.

Forecasts of a deeper UK recession relative to other European countries, the possibility of negative interests from the Bank of England and Brexit have all weighed on the pound in recent weeks.

A historic slump across British businesses levelled off last month as some of the economy reopened following an easing of the coronavirus lockdown, a business survey showed.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 47.1 from 29.0 in May.

Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho

Source: UK Reuters

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Bailey: Bank of England will reverse QE before raising rates

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey believes the Bank of England must begin reversing quantitative easing before hiking interest rates from record lows.

Bailey said today that a reveral of QE should come before lifting rates from their historic lows of 0.1 per cent, signalling an upending of long-standing Bank of England policy.

Bailey said the time for such action was not now, but that the high level of central bank asset purchases “shouldn’t always be taken for granted”.

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“When the time comes to withdraw monetary stimulus, in my opinion it may be better to consider adjusting the level of reserves first without waiting to raise interest rates on a sustained basis,” Bailey wrote in an article for Bloomberg.

Last week the Bank of England announced a further £100bn of stimulus to take its bond-buying target from £645bn to £745bn for 2020. However, it said the rate of QE would decrease for the rest of the year.

The Bank’s monetary policy committee slashed interest rates to 0.1 per cent back in March to combat coronavirus.

Bailey’s comments today signal a shift away from his predecessor Mark Carney’s strategy.

Carney had said the Bank would raise rates before trying to sell bonds back to the market.

But Bailey said today he did not want high Bank of England purchases of government bonds to become a long-standing scenario.

“Elevated balance sheets could limit the room for manoeuvre in future emergencies,” he said.

The Bank of England has purchased huge amounts of government bonds since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

By Joe Curtis

Source: City AM

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We must be ready for further stimulus, says Bank of England’s Andrew Bailey

The Bank of England and other policymakers must be ready to take further action to help the UK’s economy because of the risk of the coronavirus shutdown causing long-term damage, governor Andrew Bailey has said.

“We are still very much in the midst of this,” Bailey told broadcasters today.

His comments come after new data showed the UK’s economic output tumbled over 20 per cent in April, suffering the largest drop since records began in 1997 as the coronavirus lockdown brought many sections of the economy virtually to a halt.

“We hope that will be as small as possible but we have to be ready and ready to take action, not just the Bank of England but more broadly, on what we can do to offset those longer term damaging effects,” Bailey said.

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While the fall in April – when the economy spent a full month under lockdown – was dramatic, the big question was how much long-term damage this would inflict on Britain’s economy, he said.

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Bailey said the record drop in GDP was close to the central bank’s expectation for the month, and reiterated his view that some early signs of economic recovery have emerged since then.

The Band of England is expected to announce an expansion of at least £100bn in its bond-buying firepower when its Monetary Policy Committee meets next week in order to limit the damage caused to the economy by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The central bank has already spent the bulk of the record £200bn expansion to its asset-buying programme, which was launched in March.

While the BoE has reduced interest rates to an all-time low of 0.1 per cent in a bid to mitigate the economic impact of the virus, it has not been willing to follow other central banks in setting negative rates.

This decision means that the Bank’s main tool for combatting the coronavirus-induced recession is its bond-buying programme.

Speaking earlier this week, Bailey said the recession triggered by the pandemic will be “different” to others.

“If there is any such thing as a normal recession… this one will be different. There will be elements of a faster recovery, because the first stage of the recovery is literally lifting restrictions and allowing people to go out,” Bailey said at a panel hosted by the World Economic Forum.

By Anna Menin

Source: City AM

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Sterling holds near $1.27 as UK plans re-opening, short positions increase

Sterling rose against the dollar on Monday, as plans to ease coronavirus lockdowns in the UK and signs the economy may bounce back due to pent-up demand kept the currency just below the $1.27 touched late last week.

Analysts warned, however, that Brexit remains a risk for the pound – which has rallied for seven consecutive days against the dollar – as talks with the European Union fail to make progress.

The pound has risen 2.8% against the dollar this month as several economies re-open from lockdowns, weakening demand for the U.S. currency.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to relax rules on outdoor dining and weddings, as well as speeding up government investment plans to limit the economic damage from the coronavirus, newspapers reported on Saturday.

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The Sunday Times said Johnson wanted to relax planning restrictions that stop many pubs, cafes and restaurants from using outside areas, and also to make it legal to hold weddings outside.

The number of British shoppers in early June indicate pent-up demand for shopping in physical stores as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, industry data showed on Monday.

Britain went into lockdown on March 23 to slow the spread of the pandemic, with all retail stores deemed non-essential forced to close.

By 0828 GMT, sterling was up 0.15% against the dollar at $1.2686, just below Friday’s $1.27. It was weaker against the euro by 0.12% at 89.10 pence.

“Sterling-dollar remains anchored around the 200-day moving average of $1.2660/65. But it seems that bar the broader weak dollar and positive risk environment, investors currently lack any major catalyst for the pound to move materially above this key level,” said Viraj Patel, FX and global macro strategist at Arkera.

“We could see the pound tread water around these levels in absence of any further positive catalysts and investors take stock of what will happen next in broader markets – especially ahead of the Fed meeting later this week. However, with Brexit headwinds also coming to the forefront of investors – the risks are mildly tilted to the downside for the pound this week.”

Johnson is willing to accept European Union tariffs on some UK goods in an attempt to win a trade deal and break the deadlock in talks with the EU, the Daily Mail reported. Britain’s chief negotiator, David Frost, had made a new offer, the newspaper said, citing sources.

According to the offer, the UK would accept tariffs on a small number of goods in return for the EU’s dropping its demand that Britain continue to follow EU rules.

Speculators increased their net short position on sterling in the week to last Tuesday, CFTC data showed on Friday.

Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho

Source: UK Reuters

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Pound pushes through $1.27 for first time since March

The pound rose above $1.27 and was set for its biggest weekly gain against the dollar since the end of March on Friday, even though European Union and British negotiators said there had been little progress in Brexit trade talks.

Britain left the EU in January and there are just weeks left to extend a year-end deadline to reach a trade deal.

A transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place during talks expires at the end of 2020 unless both sides agree to extend it this month, which Britain has said it will not do.

“The market thinks there’s still a better than 50% chance that we’ll muddle through again,” said Kit Juckes, FX analyst at Societe Generale, adding that the risk of not reaching a deal was a background worry for sterling.

The pound, which has gained more than 3 cents in a week, rose as high as $1.2705, its strongest since March 12.

Against the euro, which gained further after the European Central Bank’s latest stimulus plan, the pound reached 89.04 pence, having retreated from the 90 level it briefly broke above late on Thursday.

The pound has gained 5% against the dollar since reaching a low of $1.2075 in mid-May, but has been held back by Britain’s high coronavirus death toll, Brexit-related risks, the prospect of negative interest rates and a growing debt pile.

It gained when the Bank of England’s executive director for markets said that a negative interest rate would not be introduced in the near term.

“If the UK goes down the road of negative rates, it would be the first country with a negative current account deficit to do so, putting downward pressure on sterling,” Deutsche Bank economist Sanjay Raja and macro strategist Oliver Harvey said in a note to clients.

“This could see inflation jump at a time when the Bank is looking to shore up confidence and support the economy through the recovery,” they added.

The weakening dollar played a role in sterling’s rise.

“The Federal Reserve is employing massive monetary expansion, and political tensions in the US cement that stance even further. Both have already contributed to a rebound in GBPUSD and will continue to do so,” Thomas Flury, head of FX strategies, and Dean Turner, economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, said.

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft

Source: UK Reuters

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BoE not remotely close to decision on negative rates, says chief economist

The Bank of England’s chief economist has said the bank is not remotely close to any decision on taking interest rates below zero to cope with the pandemic.

Andy Haldane said the key factors for the BoE to consider were the consequences of negative rates for banks and lenders, which would squeeze margins.

“Those are the aspects that we’ll look at,” Haldane said during an online discussion organised by the Confederation of British Industry on Tuesday.

“To be clear, reviewing and doing are different things and currently we are in the review phase and have not reached a view remotely yet on the doing.”

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the bank has slashed its main rate to a record low of 0.1 per cent, prompting questions about whether it will cut into negative territory to stimulate the economy further.

It would mean banks are charged a small amount for keeping their money with their country’s central bank. The European Central Bank’s (ECB) deposit rate is currently minus 0.5 per cent.

Last week, BoE governor Andrew Bailey said it would be “foolish” to rule out negative interest rates. He has previously argued against them but admitted he had changed his position.

He was keen to highlight that the Bank is not saying it will cut rates further: “We’re not ruling it in but we’re not ruling it out.”

Haldane also said the recent economic data was coming in a “shade better” than a scenario published by the bank earlier this month.

“This is perhaps still a V but perhaps a fairly lop-sided V,” he said, referring to the shape of the economy’s downturn and recovery.

“The risks to that probably…lie to the downside rather than the up and as I say, a rather more protracted recovery even than the one that I have mentioned.”

By Angharad Carrick

Source: City AM

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Bank of England not ruling out negative interest rates

Government bonds have been sold in Britain for the first time with a negative yield.

And the Bank of England has admitted it would be “foolish” to rule out cutting interest rate to below zero.

The negative yield bond (a £3.8billion three-year gilt auction with an interest rate of -0.003 per cent) effectively means investors are paying lend money to fund the Government as it deals with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

And Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said how low the cost of borrowing could go would be kept under “active review”.

He said: “We do not rule things out as a matter of principle. That would be a foolish thing to do. But that doesn’t mean we rule things in either.:

Minimal or negative interest rates deter savers with the intention of them spending what money they have to stimulate the economy.

Tim Watkins, managing partner of Shurdington-based accountants Randall & Payne, said: “Another first!. Britain had never sold a government bond with a negative yield until Wednesday.

“The interest rate is 0.75 per cent but the price investors paid for the bonds was more than they will receive when the bond is repaid.

“A first for Britain but we join Japan, Germany and some others. It doesn’t mean investors will make a loss as bonds are traded but it’s a position no one would have imagined a few months ago.”

He continued: What does it signal? It’s an indication, if another was needed, that there could be a major recession coming, central banks want to own safe assets in these circumstances and our debt is considered safe.

“It’s a relief at the moment with such a borrowing requirement that Britain is considered safe and the cost of borrowing is low.

“If that were to change it would add even further to the debt mountain we could have when this is all over.”

Martin Day, director of The Bespoke Banking Consultancy in Gloucester believes the spectre of negative interest could encourage spending as the economy shrinks.

He said: “It seems the policymakers will come under more pressure to take action to boost the economy as the UK sells bonds with a negative yield for the first time.

“The sale does reflect rising expectations that the Bank of England will increase its £200billion bond purchase shortly.

“Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey recently told MPs that the possibility of negative rates is being kept under review.

“This move could be used to urge corporates and companies to spend rather than hold funds in bank accounts.”

By Rob Freeman

Source: Punchline Gloucester

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GBP: British pound tumbles as Brexit talks end in disarray

  • The British pound index declined after the third round of talks ended without a deal.
  • The UK side said the EU insistence of a “level playing field” was to blame.
  • The UK has until June 30 to request for an extension of the transition period.

The British pound dropped sharply after the European Union and the UK concluded the third round of negotiations. The pound index declined by more than 2% while the GBP/USD pair declined by almost 60 basis points.

British pound falls as Brexit talks end in disarray

The British pound sank today after the third round of talks ended in disarray as I had predicted. In a statement, David Frost, the chief UK negotiator said:

“I regret however that we made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us.”

In the statement, he said that the European Union had refused to engage on creating a good Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the UK. He said that the main obstacle was that the EU insisted on including a set of unbalanced proposals that would bind the UK to EU laws.

In another statement, Michel Barnier, said that talks with the UK were disappointing. In his statement, he said that the EU was not going to seal a new trade deal until a level playing field was established. He said:

“We’re not going to bargain away our values for the benefit of the UK economy.”

Key Brexit issues

There are several differences between the UK and the European Union. The most basic one is that the UK insists on being an equal of the European Union. In a statement last week, Barnier said that the UK was a country of 66 million people against the EU’s population of about 450 million people.

The biggest difference between the two is that the UK insists on a free trade agreement (FTA) like the one the EU has with Canada. The Canadian deal removes most tariffs and quotas while leaving Canada to regulate itself.

The EU has rejected this this idea, saying that such a deal would not work because of the volume of trade involved. While the EU and Canada do business worth more than €72 billion, the UK exports goods worth more than £291 billion to the European Union. This represents about 44% of the total UK exports.

The EU argues that allowing the UK to regulate itself will be unfair to companies in the European Union. As such, it proposes an agreement where the UK stays within the EU regulations.

There are other differences in the Brexit talks. For example, the UK has said that it wants to control its rich fishing waters. The EU has rejected this because its fishermen catch more than 50% of their fish from the UK waters. In the statement, Frost said:

“It is hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which makes it difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”

The challenge for the UK is that Boris Johnson has said he will not ask for an extension to the transition period. With the June 30 deadline reaching, analysts believe that chances of leaving without a deal are high.

By Crispus Nyaga

Source: Invezz

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Bank of England ‘not contemplating’ negative interest rates, says governor Andrew Bailey

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has said Threadneedle Street is not considering cutting interest rates to below zero.

The governor said that it would be unwise to rule anything out, “particularly in these circumstances,” in an online question and answer session with the Financial Times.

Yet he said: “It is not something we are currently planning for or contemplating.”

His comments come after deputy governor Ben Broadbent said the Bank was open-minded about its next steps. He said of negative interest rates: “These are the balanced questions the committee has to think about.”

Although once unimaginable, negative interest rates have been put in place in various central banks around the world over the last decade. The European Central Bank (ECB), for example, charges banks to hold money with it in an effort to force them to lend.

Negative rates come with pros and cons. They help spur lending by penalising banks for sitting on money. But they also limit the profits banks can make through lending and the interest on savers’ deposits.

The Bank of England slashed its main interest rate to 0.1 per cent, its lowest ever level, in March.

Bailey said that one of the main obstacles to cutting interest rates into negative territory would be the optics of the complex move.

“I think from a communications point of view, and therefore from a reaction and expectations point of view, it is a very big step.”

He said it must be realised that negative interest rates cause banks problems. The Eurozone’s biggest banks have long complained that the policy hurts their profits.

Should the Bank decide to unleash more stimulus, most analysts think it will ramp up its £645 billion quantitative easing (QE) programme. Under QE, the Bank creates digital money and uses it to buy bonds – mainly government Gilts – in the secondary market.

The BoE stopped short of launching more bond-buying at its last meeting but could do so in June.

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM