The pound has fallen against the dollar as traders near the end of their week after survey data was better than expected in the US but painted a gloomy picture of the UK economy.
Sterling was trading 0.59 per cent lower against the greenback by 4.40pm, taking it to $1.283.
A falling pound alongside positive noises from China concerning a US trade deal helped the FTSE 100 end the day 1.22 per cent higher.
Traders sold off sterling following a worse-than-expected survey reading which showed that the UK private sector has suffered its biggest fall in output in over three years in November.
By contrast, US factory and services activity picked up pace this month, a survey from data firm IHS Markit showed.
The reading, which was better than analysts had hoped for, boosted the dollar. Against the euro, for instance, the dollar has risen 0.25 per cent to €0.906 by 4.40pm UK time.
Connor Campbell of trading platform Spreadex called the UK figures “nasty, nasty numbers”. He said they were “so bad that sterling was swiftly booted into the red”.
Andy Scott, associate director at risk assessor JCRA, said: “Sterling reacted negatively to today’s data which points to economic activity declining in November.”
He added that the reading supports the case made by the two Bank of England rate-setters who voted for a rate cut last month.
“The economy is clearly reflecting the strain placed on businesses from Brexit negotiations and the continuing state of flux,” he said, “added to which is a general election that includes one major party pushing for a relatively hard Brexit and radical socialist policy proposals from the other.”
Scott said the outlook for sterling “very much hangs on the outcome of the election, with the currency reacting positive to a number of voting intention polls that give the Conservatives a double-digit lead over the Labour party”.
A Tory majority is seen by most traders as a positive outcome for the pound as it increases the chances of Britain leaving the EU with a Brexit deal, which they hope would end some of the recent economic uncertainty.
Sterling skidded again on Friday, hitting its lowest in more than two years, after an unexpected second quarter contraction in the economy alarmed investors already fretting that Britain is headed for a no-deal Brexit.
The pound, which has lost 3.7% of its value against the dollar since arch-Brexiteer Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s arrival in office in late July, sank to $1.2056, the weakest it has been since January 2017, and was last down by 0.5% at $1.2072.
Against the euro, the pound slid to a new two-year low of 92.885 pence and was last down by 0.7% on the day.
The British currency has been close to being the worst performing in the developed world these past couple of weeks since Johnson became prime minister on July 24.
Britain’s economy shrank at a quarterly rate of 0.2%, the first contraction since 2012 and below all forecasts in a Reuters poll.
Year-on-year economic growth slid to 1.2% from 1.8% in the first quarter, Britain’s Office for National Statistics said, its weakest showing since the start of 2018.
British government bond yields fell as investors sought safety in fixed income assets.
UK domestic stocks weakened, although London’s export-heavy blue chip FTSE 100 index clawed its way back into positive territory as sterling plunged.
Some investors now expect Britain to enter a technical recession, which represents two consecutive quarters of negative growth, if the economic situation continues to worsen.
“Overall, these are clearly a disappointing set of figures which have significantly raised the likelihood of a technical recession,” said Azad Zangana, senior European economist and strategist at Schroders.
The pound has suffered a torrid few weeks as investors priced in the growing risk of Britain exiting the European Union under Johnson on Oct. 31 without a deal to smooth the transition.
BNP Paribas raised on Friday the probability of a no-deal Brexit to 50% from 40%. Some analysts say there could be more pain to come.
“As the political risk premium rose, sterling was the worst-performing major currency in each of May, June and July, but the negative risk premium can still rise further,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Adam Cole said.
Johnson is planning to hold a parliamentary election in the days after Brexit if lawmakers sink the government with a no-confidence vote, British media have reported, further unnerving currency traders.
It is growing increasingly likely that Johnson will face a vote of no confidence soon after Sept. 3, when parliament returns from its summer recess, analysts say.
Johnson says Britain, which voted for Brexit in 2016 by a 52%-48% margin, must leave the EU on schedule on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal with the bloc. Delaying an election until after Brexit could be a tactic to ensure that happens even if parliament withdraws support for his government.
Vasileios Gkionakis, global head of forex strategy at Lombard Odier, said he was worried about an election, but was also ready to unload some sterling short positions he had accumulated since a lot of bad news had been already priced in.
“If no-deal (Brexit) increases in probability, then of course sterling would be a sell, but until then I’m becoming a bit more neutral,” Gkionakis said, adding that he expects sterling to “settle around $1.20” before market participants reassess their expectations of that outcome.
Others in the market mirrored Gkionakis’ views on Friday.
Paul Hollingsworth, senior European economist at BNP Paribas, said he was “reluctant to enter short sterling positions” and that he found “risk-reward more attractive to consider entering structural long sterling positions as we get closer to September”.
The shrinking economic growth in the second quarter did not make investors more confident that the Bank of England will cut interest rates in September. Some economists expect the central bank to embark on more easing soon, however.
“As uncertainty continues to loom over the UK economy, the difficult run of data is expected to continue and the BoE will need to consider its next step carefully as its global peers embark on further rate cuts,” said Geoffrey Yu, head of the UK Investment Office at UBS Wealth Management.
Money markets are pricing in a 25 basis point cut by January 2020.
Reporting by Olga Cotaga with; additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Mark Heinrich
The British Pound is said to already be trading at crisis levels, and as a result it will struggle to fall much lower says an analyst at leading global investment bank.
GBP is already “trading at crisis levels, and will struggle to go much lower,” says Jordan Rochester, foreign exchange strategist with Nomura in London.
That the Pound is already low by historical standards, it would suggest it will take successive bouts of bad news to really push new lows.
We wonder where such news might come from.
The Pound has recovered ground against the Euro over the course of the past 24 hours with news that Boris Johnson would replace Theresa May as Prime Minister on Wednesday.
The Pound-to-Euro exchange rate has recovered to 1.1160, having been as low as 1.1047 just last week.
“The Pound was volatile yesterday following Boris Johnson’s victory speech, as well as remarks from the BoE’s Haldane and Saunders who indicated they are not likely to vote for a rate rise in the near term. The Euro is under pressure ahead of tomorrow’s ECB policy announcement. The ECB is expected to prepare the ground for lower interest rates in September, although there is an outside chance of a reduction as early as tomorrow,” says Hann-Ju Ho, an economist with Lloyds Bank.
We would like to say the Pound is rallying exclusively on news Johnson is taking over, but we expect the picture is a great deal more nuanced: markets have known for weeks Johnson was incoming, and we believe they are now awaiting the next decisive moves on Brexit policy for guidance.
Furthermore, markets will be watching to see whether a General Election is likely in the UK before pulling the trigger on further Sterling declines.
Nomura’s Rochester also makes the point that the change at the top of the UK’s leadership extends well beyond the Prime Minister’s office:
“Over the next few weeks and months, the leadership transition will not only include a new Prime Minister, but a complete changing of the guard. In addition to a new PM, the UK can also look forward to seeing replacements for Chancellor, Cabinet, Bank of England Governor, budget and Brexit plan.
Despite the expected leadership changes, Rochester notes implied volatility levels in Sterling are still below levels seen back in March when markets were showing notable nerves over the prospect of potential big moves around the original Brexit date, and therefore “a lot of the negative news has been priced into spot,” says Rochester.
In short, the Pound is at levels that suggests it has eaten a decent share of bad news.
“GBP already trades at crisis levels and typically struggles to move much lower,” says Rochester. ‘While we acknowledge that a no-deal Brexit is a risk and would very likely record new lows in GBP, we do not expect the market to assign a higher hard Brexit premium than previously or until parliament returns after the summer break in September.”
Above: GBP/EUR since 2009: Sterling is at already-low levels, and it might struggle to fall lower
We believe the conditions for a recovery in Sterling over coming weeks, that coincides with Parliament’s summer break, is a distinct likelihood.
After all, this is a political currency, and with no politicians to bother it the prospect of a recovery grows.
Euro Hit by Dire Manufacturing Data
The Euro was in retreat from a steady Dollar and stronger Pound Sterling Wednesday after IHS Markit surveys for July pointed to a renewed economic slowdown in the Eurozone in the third-quarter, prompting calls for the European Central Bank (ECB) to support the economy with interest rate cuts and more quantitative easing as soon as this Thursday.
The IHS manufacturing PMI fell to a 79-month low of 46.4 in July, from 47.6 in June, when financial markets had looked for it to remain unchanged.
However it was German manufacturing PMI which proved an eye-opener: the German Manufacturing PMI read at 43.1, well below expectations for 45.1.
Anything below 50 suggests contraction, it is therefore little wonder that Euro exchange rates are in retreat on the numbers:
The Pound-to-Euro exchange rate extended its short-term uptrend on the numbers to record a near-month high at 1.1207.
The Euro-to-Dollar exchange rate fell to close in on a new two-month low at 1.1139.
Meanwhile, the Eurozone services sector PMI fell from 53.6 to 53.3, in line with the market consensus.
The composite PMI, which combines the two previous surveys, fell from 52.2 to 51.5 this month suggesting that while the economy is still expanding it is close to stalling.
New order flows stagnated in the manufacturing sector this month and confidence hit its lowest level since late 2014, leading companies to become more cautious about hiring new employees, IHS Markit says.
Exports were the weakest link again and many companies were forced to begin clearing old work backlogs to sustain output. “The key point here really is that the slowdown in manufacturing is now so severe that it almost surely will hit the official labour market data soon, which could change the political story, re fiscal policy, too. The chart shows that GDP growth rebounded at the start of the year, but incoming data suggest that the party ended abruptly in Q2, and the PMI now suggests a further slowdown in Q3, though it has an opportunity to recover in coming months,” says Claus Vistesen, chief Eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Sterling extended its decline on Monday as the outlook for the currency turned bleaker, with traders increasing their bets on a no-deal Brexit ahead of the results of the Conservative Party’s leadership election.
The pound’s weakness was in contrast to the general calm in broader currency markets, and signalled growing unease among investors over the likelihood of eurosceptic former foreign minister Boris Johnson becoming the next prime minister.
The result of the weeks-long internal party election will be announced on Tuesday, with Johnson widely expected to have beaten foreign minister Jeremy Hunt. The winner will become prime minister on Wednesday.
The pound last traded down 0.2% at $1.2476, not far from the 27-month low reached last week, having declined 1.7% against the dollar so far this month.
Against the euro, it fell to 89.98 pence.
Some investors are worried Johnson could pull Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a trade deal in place in order to appease members of his Conservative Party and frustrated pro-Brexit voters, three years after Britons voted by a narrow majority in a referendum to leave the EU.
“To save the Conservative Party, he (Johsnon) has to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31,” said Helen Thomas, CEO of macroeconomic consulting firm BlondeMoney.
Market participants have been buying more options since early May to protect against losses in sterling and have consolidated their positions in the past few days, according to three-month sterling risk-reversals, which measure demand for buy and sell options on the British currency.
Three-month implied volatility in the pound has risen since the beginning of the month and has hit its highest level since early April, signalling that traders are bracing for a rocky ride for sterling.
Still, levels are well below the highs achieved before Britain’s initial March 29 deadline to leave the EU, which was extended after Prime Minister Theresa May failed to pass a withdrawal deal in parliament.
(For a graphic on ‘Implied sterling volatility surges around Oct 31 deadline’, click here tmsnrt.rs/2O9MJHo)
Hedge funds have also increased their short positions on the pound to $5.94 billion via currency futures in the week to July 16, a 10-month high, based on Commodity Futures Trading Commission data.
“The market will look to price in the chance of a no-deal Brexit at 50/50,” said Neil Jones, head of European hedge fund sales at Mizuho.
Morgan Stanley said it now saw a 30% chance of Britain leaving the EU without a deal compared to 25% previously.
Though investors look anxious, BlondeMoney’s Thomas argued they aren’t worried enough.
“The risk (of a no-deal Brexit) is really, really underpriced now,” she said, adding that she expected to see sterling fall to parity against the euro in the event of Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal.
Voting by Conservative Party members in the leadership election ends at 1600 GMT on Monday. The announcement of the winner is expected around mid-morning on Tuesday.
Some analysts expect the pound to hover around its current levels, at least for now, given that the UK parliament will enter summer recess shortly and therefore won’t make any new progress on Brexit negotiations.
“Sterling already trades at crisis levels and typically struggles to go much lower,” said Jordan Rochester, forex strategist at Nomura.
In a note to clients, Citi analysts said that a no-deal Brexit would likely prompt the Bank of England to cut interest rates, which “could help offset the negative economic effects of ‘crash out’ and support the currency.”
Sterling fell below $1.24 on Wednesday, levels not plumbed for more than two years, as investors continued to price the growing risk of Britain’s crashing out of the European Union without a transition agreement in place.
With economic data also showing the UK economy struggling, putting more pressure on the Bank of England to ease monetary policy, investors are taking to currency derivatives and futures markets to bet on more weakness.
After falling to as low as $1.2382, the pound later rebounded slightly on Wednesday to trade at $1.2426 GBP=D3, up 0.2% on the day, but the currency remains under pressure.
“Clearly the issues facing the UK currently have not been faced in the last decade or so, even during the global financial crisis, and the potential for the pound to hit the 2016 lows is there,” said Neil Mellor, a senior currency strategist at BNY Mellon in London.
In October 2016, the British currency dropped briefly below $1.15, its lowest in more than three decades, during a flash crash in the currency markets in early Asian trading hours.
It has since recovered, strengthening to nearly $1.34 earlier this year. But fears the next British Prime Minister will drag Britain out of the EU without a deal have prompted traders to dump the pound in recent days.
Arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson is the favourite to become Conservative Party leader next week and hence the next prime minister. Johnson and his opponent for the leadership, Jeremy Hunt, have been vying with each other to show party members their willingness to force a “hard” Brexit.
(For a graphic on ‘One direction for sterling’, click tmsnrt.rs/2NZstIC)
The pound has lost 1% against the euro this month and more than 2% against the dollar, putting it on track for its biggest monthly drop since June 2018.
It is this year’s worst-performing G10 currency against the dollar. HSBC strategists said a “no-deal” outcome would push the pound all the way to $1.10.
(For a graphic on ‘Sterling worst performing G10 currency in 2019’, click tmsnrt.rs/32t7xgc)
Against the euro, sterling weakened to as low as 90.51 pence EURGBP=D3 on Wednesday, a new six-month low, before recovering to 90.285 by 1445 GMT.
Traders’ fears seem justified, with Britain’s Brexit minister, Stephen Barclay, telling lawmakers on Wednesday no-deal risk was “underpriced”.
The hard Brexit risk was boosted this week when both Johnson and Hunt said they would not accept the so-called Northern Irish backstop in Theresa May’s proposed Brexit agreement.
The backstop is intended to prevent the return of a hard border between EU member Ireland and British province Northern Ireland. If implemented, the UK would follow many EU rules until arrangements are made to avert a hard border.
That has sent investors scurrying to price greater pound volatility, with implied volatility gauges jumping in recent days — the six-month contract, encompassing the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, has risen above 9 vols for the first time since early-April, up from 8.3 vols two weeks ago GBP6MO=FN.
“These are all risks we’ve known about for months, so it’s not new, but there is the need for sterling vol to actually price these risks, which it simply was not doing much of before this week,” Nomura strategists told clients.
Markets were shrugging off economic data, with “hedging flows more of a focus”, they said.
Net short sterling positions are at $5.69 billion, having grown for four weeks straight, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
(For a graphic on ‘GBP volatility curve’, click tmsnrt.rs/32sNMW4)
Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee and Sujata Rao; Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Larry King and Peter Graff
Sterling would weaken considerably against both the dollar and euro if Britain left the European Union without a deal, according to strategists in a Reuters poll, with many saying the pound could reach parity with the common currency.
The pound had its biggest monthly loss against the euro in two years in May and also lost against the dollar, whacked by risk aversion amid the Brexit impasse.
It is still unclear how, when or even if Britain will leave the EU almost three years since Britons voted in a referendum to part ways. The two sides are currently due to divorce on Oct. 31, later than the original March 29 deadline.
If the country leaves without a deal, foreign exchange strategists polled by Reuters on May 30-June 5 were almost unanimous in saying the pound would tumble.
Currently hovering around $1.27, median forecasts said cable would trade between $1.15-$1.20 within a month following a no-deal Brexit. Two said it could go as low as parity to the dollar.
On Wednesday one euro was worth about 88.6 pence, but the median trading range was 91-96p in a no-deal scenario. Almost half of respondents said the euro could strengthen to one pound or beyond.
“The risk of a no-deal Brexit is rather limited in reality but it would be catastrophic if it actually happens,” said Everett Brown at IDEAglobal.
Boris Johnson, a former London mayor who was the face of the official 2016 campaign to leave the EU, is favourite to replace Theresa May as British prime minister. May announced last month she would quit the top job over her failure to deliver Brexit.
Johnson, who served as foreign minister in May’s cabinet until his resignation last summer over her Brexit proposals, takes a more hardline stance on the issue and has said Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 “deal or no deal”.
Still, Reuters polls of economists taken since the June 2016 referendum have consistently said the two sides would part ways with a deal agreed and median forecasts in the wider poll of around 60 strategists predict that sterling will strengthen.
One pound will be worth $1.27 in a month, in six months it will get you $1.30 and in a year will be over 5% stronger at $1.34. But that is still well below the $1.50 where it was trading before the June 2016 referendum to leave the EU.
“We still see an orderly Brexit resolution in 1H20 as more likely, hence we remain bullish on sterling in the medium term,” Morgan Stanley strategists told clients in a note.
Those median forecasts are a touch weaker than those given a month ago. The downgrade for sterling comes despite growing expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon follow other central banks and start cutting interest rates.
In contrast, the Bank of England was still narrowly expected to raise borrowing costs early next year in a Reuters poll taken last month.
The European Central Bank’s interest rates are going nowhere anytime soon, another Reuters poll found, and its next move will be to tweak its forward guidance to more easing.
So it was a similar strengthening story against the euro. The one, six and 12-month forecasts were 88.0p, 86.3p and 86.0p respectively.
Polling by Sumanto Mondal and Manjul Paul; Editing by Ross Finley and Gareth Jones
Sterling was little changed on Monday after a newspaper report suggested the British parliament might still reach a cross-party deal on Brexit, though doubts about such an agreement kept the currency from gaining.
Up to 150 lawmakers from Britain’s opposition Labour party would reject an agreement that did not include a referendum confirming it, the Guardian newspaper reported shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer had said.
Many members of the ruling Conservative party oppose a second referendum, but the fact talks are still being held is keeping sterling from booking losses, analysts said.
“Most investors would see a sterling-positive view on a second referendum,” said Rabobank FX strategist Jane Foley.
Sterling was flat at $1.30 against the dollar — roughly the middle of the $1.2851-$1.3190 range of recent weeks — and 86.53 per euro.
“The market is just suffering from Brexit fatigue. UK assets are significantly underowned by global investors so if you are underweight and still see no progress on Brexit and significant volatility on other parts of your portfolio that’s what you will focus on,” said Justin Onuekwusi, portfolio manager at L&G Investment Management.
Investors will also be unwilling to commit too far either way before UK labour market data due on Tuesday. The British economy has outperformed expectations, but the market will be watching for signs that stockpiling by British companies before Brexit has hurt employment, Foley said.
“Recent better UK data are likely to be a high point in positive sentiment. Driven by stock-building, a period of payback is likely,” Natwest Markets said in a note.
With business investment curtailed by Brexit uncertainty, the Bank of England is unlikely to raise interest rates, they said.
Sterling buyers brushed aside an opinion poll that showed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives had slumped to fifth place before European parliamentary elections and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party had surged.
Reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan, editing by Larry King and Ed Osmond
Sterling slid nearly half a percent on Monday on rising concerns about the progress of Brexit negotiations and worries Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a mounting challenge to her leadership.
May is set to meet Graham Brady, chairman of an influential committee representing members of parliament from her Conservative party, amid calls for her to set a date to step down, the BBC reported.
“Currently Theresa May is walking on thin ice as the latest reports indicate a revolt against her could take place. MPs (Members of parliament) are probably not satisfied with cross-party talks so far. Therefore the pound is being dragged down as another dose of uncertainty hits the market,” said Marc-André Fongern of MAF Global Forex.
The British currency was generally weak across the board, reserving some of its biggest losses against the dollar and the low yielding Japanese yen.
Against the dollar, the pound slipped as much as 0.5 percent to $1.3040 before recovering slightly to trade 0.4 percent down at $1.3051.
It also weakened a quarter of a percent against the euro at 85.69 pence and 0.7 percent against the yen at 144.21 yen.
A dollar rising at the start of the U.S. trading session also hit the pound.
“There is broad dollar strength across the board but it is being felt more acutely through sterling,” said Kamal Sharma, a director of G10 FX strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Britain’s Conservative government and the opposition Labour Party resumed Brexit talks to try to find a way to break the deadlock in parliament over the country’s departure from the European Union.
May agreed a withdrawal deal with the EU last year, but it was rejected three times by a deeply divided British parliament. That delayed the exit date, a postponement that has weighed on the pound as investors fret about prolonged political uncertainty.
Sterling has traded in a narrow range of $1.28-$1.31 since Britain pushed its scheduled departure from the European Union back from March until Oct. 31. There is still little clarity about when, how, or even if, Brexit will happen.
Investors have been broadly impervious to tepid economic data recently and even relatively hawkish comments from the Bank of England last week failed to jolt the currency.
Overall volatility in the currency markets remained near five-year lows and net positions by hedge funds in sterling have slipped back into negative territory.
For a graphic on Sterling/dollar three-month implied volatility, see – tmsnrt.rs/2DLBsWn
Reporting by Tom Finn; Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee and Thyagaraju Adinarayan; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Peter Graff
The British pound was headed for its biggest weekly drop in a month on Friday, dragged down by growing concern about stagnant Brexit talks.
A broad dollar rebound this month — it has gained against all its major rivals — has also undercut the appeal of the pound before a Bank of England policy meeting next week where policymakers are expected to leave interest rates unchanged.
Sterling – stuck around $1.29 – has struggled this week as lawmakers returned from an Easter recess with little sign of progress in Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to convince lawmakers to back her Brexit deal.
Britain’s departure date from the European Union has been pushed back until as late as the end of October. The protracted divorce is hurting the British economy and poor productivity is hindering growth, Goldman Sachs said.
Sterling edged 0.3 percent higher to $1.2932, its weakest since mid-February. Against the euro, the pound traded flat at 86.3 pence. On a weekly basis, it is set to decline 0.6 percent, its biggest drop in four weeks.
The dollar, which rose towards a two-year high on an index of major currencies, also weighed on the pound. So did the prospect of a fresh push for Scottish independence.
“Renewed debate about the choice of currency for an independent Scotland will rekindle uncertainty. Sterling risks $1.2800 in the current strong dollar environment,” said Chris Turner, head of foreign exchange strategy at ING.
Differences over Brexit have strained relations with the British government, and Scotland will start preparing for an independence referendum before May 2021, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday.
Scots rejected independence in a 2014 referendum and support since then has stuck at around 45 percent, opinion polls say.