Ever since the surprise leave vote in the UK, investors have braced for a financial tsunami that could overwhelm the UK economy. Thus far, there has only been one real casualty—the Pound Sterling. All the while, the UK economy has surprised forecasters. The UK Manufacturing PMI already bounced back to an impressive 55.4; retail sales were surprisingly resilient and, most puzzling to economists, UK 3rd quarter GDP grew at a healthy clip of 2.3% Q3 year-over-year. So, what is really going on? Continue reading "Sterling Close To A Turnaround?"→
The UK economy is sending mixed signals of resilient performance and negative sentiment. The latest PMI readings, both in services and manufacturing, plunged below 50, signaling a contraction. Consumer confidence took a nosedive to -12 in July from a -1 reading just a month before. And in the real estate sector, the latest survey of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors of estate agents showed that only 23% of the participants expected housing prices to rise in the next twelve months.
The Bank of England, at its August meeting, responded with sweeping measures to ease monetary conditions. The BoE cut the benchmark interest rate by 25 bps to 0.25%, eased capital requirements for UK banks which will free up £150 billion of liquidity, and the “crown jewel” – a new round of £60 billion in Quantitative Easing, bringing the QE total to £435 billion.
Nevertheless, Key data released in the UK this week suggests that the overall economy is rather resilient, with unemployment holding at 4.9% and core inflation falling only moderately, from 1.4% to 1.3% year-on-year.
Friday, June 24th will be remembered as a Black Day for the British Pound. On that day, investors, shocked by the “leave” vote for Brexit, pushed the Pound off a cliff, toward its worst daily loss since 1985. And yet, despite the Pound being at the eye of the storm after the Brexit vote, it’s not the Pound’s future that investors should fear.
Brexit Impact On The Pound Sterling
The impact Brexit will have on the Pound should be divided into two ranges—short to mid-term and long-term.
In the short to mid-term, it’s undeniable that the Pound will face significant and broad pressures—monetarily, fiscally and economically. The Bank of England will likely need to deploy extra liquidity measures to assure stability in the financial system which, effectively, is monetary easing. From a political standpoint, uncertainty has increased dramatically. On Friday, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned, and his “heir apparent” is still unclear. But even more, troubling is the future of Scotland within the United Kingdom. The Scots will be compelled to cast another vote, this time on their willingness to leave the United Kingdom and stay with the European Union. Continue reading "Brexit: The Pound Will Survive, The Euro Will Not"→
Worries over an exit of Britain from the European Union have taken their toll on Sterling. As June 23rd approaches, the day in which Britons will vote to either stay or leave, so does the pressure on the Pound Sterling mount. Media polls are failing to indicate a clear result, and the FX market is getting nervous. And yet, a Brexit seems unlikely and when markets price in the unlikely—even partially—it’s worth taking the other side.
Why A Brexit Still Seems Remote
The risk of a Brexit is mostly economic. Warnings of the financial calamity that could hit the UK have been coming from notable economists from the UK Treasury but the most noteworthy and important warning came from the Bank of England.
The Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, delivered a stark warning in his latest conference. Carney laid out a rather bleak scenario in case Britons choose to exit the union. The BoE Governor stressed that growth would falter, unemployment would jump and inflation could spin out of control. Continue reading "Sterling Set for Strong Rebound In July"→
This week is expected to be a choppy one for the Pound Sterling. On Thursday, the Bank of England is set to publish its quarterly Inflation Report alongside the BoE rate decision. FX investors want to see if, afterward, a more hawkish picture emerges. If that’s the case, Sterling could quickly move higher against its battered peer, the Euro.
What to Watch for in the Inflation Report
Essentially, there are three different points worth watching in next week’s Inflation Report.
• The first are global risks. In August’s Inflation Report, the BoE warned of downside risks to inflation from global weakness. Yet after the Fed dropped its own warning on global risks, the BoE may follow suit. That will, of course, be the first hawkish sign.
• The second would be the risk of imported inflation or, in this case, disinflation. The BoE has justifiably warned of the consequences of a weak Euro. Many UK imports come from the Eurozone, and the Eurozone is a key export destination. Thus, a weak Euro weighs on UK inflation by lowering prices of goods within the UK. If the Bank sees this risk as more muted, that’s a positive sign. Although with chances of additional ECB stimulus increasing it’s hard to see a change to this segment.
• The third would be inflation expectations. Of course, it all does eventually narrow down to inflation expectations. In its past report, the BoE had expected downward inflationary pressures would gradually recede in the second half of the year. Is this scenario still intact? If, over the past quarter the BoE still sees the risk of deflation diminishing, that’s another hawkish arrow. It’s also another sign that the BoE, although at a somewhat slow pace, is moving toward high rates.
Reasons to be Upbeat
Generally, markets are optimistic on the chances of UK inflation stabilizing and the BoE turning more hawkish. The reason is the dissonance between wage gains and inflation. The chart shows that core inflation (which neutralizes seasonal and external factors) has lagged wage growth. Meanwhile, UK retail sales growth has remained robust, growing at 6.5%. This suggests that Britons are earning more and spending more. That, eventually, has to translate into higher inflation. Continue reading "The Next FX Play: Long Sterling"→