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Archive for the 'British Pound' Category

Pound Stagnates, Lacking Direction

Jun. 13th 2011

The British Pound has struggled to find direction in 2011. After getting off to a solid start – rising 4% against the US dollar in less than a month –  the Pound has since stagnated. At 1.625 GBP/USD, it is now at the same level that it was at five months ago. Given the paltry state of UK fundamentals, the fact that it still has any gains to hold on to is itself something of a miracle.

The Pound’s failure to make any additional headway shouldn’t come as a surprise. First of all, the Pound is not a safe haven currency. That means that the only chance it has to rise is when risk is “on.” Unfortunately, the Pound also scores pretty low in this regard. Annual GDP growth is currently a pathetic .5%, and is projected at only 1.8% for the entire year. Inflation is high, and both the trade balance and the current account balance are in deficit. Deficit spending has caused a surge in government debt, and there is a possibility that the UK could lose its AAA credit rating.

Investors might be willing to overlook all of this if interest rates were at an attractive level. Alas, at .5%, the Bank of England’s (BOE) benchmark rate is among the lowest in the world. Moreover, it isn’t expected to begin hiking rates for many months, and even then, the pace will be slow. Simply, the economy is too fragile to support a serious tightening of monetary policy. Interest rate futures reflect a consensus expectation that rates will be only 75 basis points higher one year from now.

If that’s the case, why hasn’t the Pound crashed entirely? To be fair, the Pound is losing groroundround against both the euro and the franc, the former of which has it bested in economic grounds while the latter is cashing in on its status as a safe haven currency. On the other hand, the Pound is still up for the year against the US dollar and Japanese Yen, both of which are also safe haven currencies.

It could be the case that the Pound is simply not the ugliest currency, since all of the charges that can be leveled against it can similarly be leveled against the dollar. Head-to-head, it’s actually quite possible that the Pound still wins, if only because its interest rates are slightly higher than the US. Or, it could be the case that investors still believe the BOE will come around and begin hiking rates. After all, at the beginning of the year (when by no coincidence, the Pound was still rising), expectations were that the BOE would have already hiked twice by this time, bringing the benchmark to a level that would make the Pound attractive to carry traders. While the BOE hasn’t followed through, carry traders may be sticking around, since the opportunity cost of holding the Pound is basically nil.

As for whether the Pound correction (that I first observed last month) will continue, that depends entirely on the BOE. Unfortunately, there is very little reason to believe that the UK economy will suddenly pick up, and hence very little reason to expect the BOE to suddenly tighten. At some point, earning .5% interest on Pounds will become unattractive to investors. Until that day comes, that might stick with the Pound out of sheer inertia. While the Pound may hold its value for this reason, I don’t think it has any hope of appreciating further this year.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound | 2 Comments »

Pound Correction is Already Underway

May. 17th 2011

Last week, I was preparing to write a post about how the British pound was overvalued and due for a correction, but was sidetracked by a series of interviews (the second of which – with Caxton FX – incidentally also hinted at this notion). Alas, the markets beat me to the bunch, and the pound has since fallen more than 3% against the dollar- the sharpest decline in more than six months. Moreover, I think there is a distinct possibility that the pound will continue to fall.

Not much has changed since the last time I wrote about the pound. If anything, the fundamentals have deteriorated. Fortunately, the latest GDP data showed that the UK avoided recession in the latest quarter, but this is offset by the fact that overall GDP remains the same as six months ago and still 4% below pre-recession levels. Despite a slight kick from the royal wedding in April, the UK will almost certainly finish 2011 towards the low end of OECD countries, perhaps above only Japan. Ed Balls, shadow chancellor of the UK, has conceded, “We’ve gone from the top end of the economic growth league table to being stuck at the bottom just above Greece and Portugal.”

Of course, the question on the minds of traders is whether the Bank of England (BOE) will raise interest rates. Initially, it was presumed (by me as well) that the BOE would be the first G4 central bank to hike, if only to contain high inflation. In fact, at the March monetary policy meeting, three members (out of nine) voted to do just that. However, there stance softened at the April meeting, and they have since been beaten to the bunch by the European Central Bank (ECB) which is notoriously more hawkish.

Now, it seems reasonable to wonder whether the BOE might also fall behind the Fed. While still high (4%), the British CPI rate has slowed in recent months. “The bank’s Governor Mervyn King said on Jan. 26 that rising prices would be temporary.” Moderating commodity prices have reduced the need for a rate hike, and bolstered the case for keeping the pound week. Unemployment is high, construction spending is falling, and the current account deficit remains wide. Moreover, budget cuts (declined to contain a national debt that has almost doubled in the last three years) and a a hike in the VAT rate have dampened the economy further, to the point that it might not be able to withstand even a slight rate hike.

Furthermore, record low Gilt (the British equivalent of the US Treasury bond) rates reflect expectations for continued low rates for the immediate future. If Q2 GDP growth – which won’t be released for another 3 months -is strong, the BOE might conceivably vote to tighten. Still, we probably won’t see more than one 25 basis point before 2012.

It seems that the only thing that kept the pound afloat so long was its correlation with the euro, which recently rose above $1.50. It has since fallen dramatically and dragged the pound down with it. In fact, the pound probably needs to fall another 3% just to stay on track with the euro. If this correlation were to break down, it would almost certainly fall much further.

It has become cliched to suggest that the forex markets have become a reverse beauty pageant, whereby investors vote not on the most attractive currencies, but rather on the least ugly. At this point, it is safe to say that among G4 currencies, the pound is the ugliest.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound | 3 Comments »

UK Forex Reserve Plan could Harm Pound

Mar. 24th 2011

Yesterday, UK Chancellor George Osborne announced that his government was ready to begin rebuilding its foreign exchange reserves. Depending on when, how, (or even if) this program is implemented, it could have serious implications for the Pound.

Forex reserve watchers (myself included) were excited by the updated US Treasury report on foreign holdings of US Treasury securities. As the Dollar is the world’s de-facto reserve currency and the US Treasury securities are the asset of choice, the report is basically a rough sketch of both the Dollar’s global popularity and the interventions of foreign Central Banks. Personally, I thought the biggest shocker was not that China’s Treasury holdings are $300 Billion greater than previously believed (with $3 Trillion in reserves, that’s really just a rounding error), but rather that the UK’s holdings declined by 50% in 2010, to a mere $260 Billion.

Given that the Bank of England (BoE) injected more than $500 Billion into the UK money supply in 2010, I suppose that shouldn’t have been much of a revelation. After all, selling US Treasury Securities and using the proceeds to buy British Gilts (sovereign debt) and other financial instruments would enable the BoE to achieve its objective without having to resort to wholesale money printing. In addition, if not for this sleight of hand, UK inflation would probably be even higher.

Still, this is little more than a mere accounting trick, and those funds will probably still need to be withdrawn from the money supply at some point anyway. Whether the BoE burns the proceeds or reinvests them back into foreign instruments is certainly worth pondering, but insofar as it won’t impact inflation, it is a matter of economic policy, and not monetary policy.

As Chancellor Osborn indicated, the UK will probably send these funds back abroad. In addition to providing support for the Dollar (as well as another reason not to be nervous about the upcoming end of the Fed’s QE2), this would seriously weaken the Pound, at a time  that it is already near a 30-year low on a trade-weighted basis. After falling off a cliff in 2009, the Pound recovered against the Dollar in 2010, largely due to the BoE’s shuffling of its foreign exchange reserves. To undo this would certainly risk sending the Pound back towards these depths.

On the one hand, the UK is certainly conscious of this and would act accordingly, perhaps even delaying any foreign exchange reserve accumulation until the Pound strengthens. On the other hand, the BoE is under pressure to fight inflation. It is reluctant to raise interest rates because of the impact it would have on the fragile economic recovery. The same can be said for unwinding its asset purchases. However, if it offset this with purchases of US Treasury securities and other foreign currency assets, it could weaken the Pound and maintain some form of economic stimulus. Especially since the UK has run a sizable trade/current account deficit for as long as anyone can remember, the BoE has both the flexibility/justification it needs to coax the exchange rate down a little bit.

Ultimately, we’ll need more information before we can determine how this will impact the Pound. Still, this is an indication that the GBP/USD might not have much more room to appreciate.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Central Banks | 1 Comment »

Pound Vs. Euro: Tie Game for Now?

Mar. 24th 2011

While I’m fondest of analyzing all currencies relative to the Dollar (after all, it’s what I’m most familiar with and is involved in almost half of all forex trades), sometimes its interesting to look at cross rates.

Take the Pound/Euro, for example, arguably one of the most important crosses, and one of a handful that often moves independently of the Dollar. If you chart the performance of this pair over the last two years, however, you can see the distinct lack of volatility. It has fluctuated around an axis of 1.15 GBP/EUR, never straying more than 5% in either direction. In fact, it’s sitting right at this level as I compose this post.

Yesterday, I read some commentary by Boris Schlossberg (whom I interviewed in 2010), Director of Currency Research at GFT. In the title (“Euro and Pound Go Their Separate Ways”), he seemed to suggest that a big move was imminent. Aside from noting that both currencies stand at crossroads, he declined to offer more concrete guidance on the direction of the potential breakout.

At the moment, the markets are gripped by risk aversion, caused by the Mid East political turmoil and the Japanese natural disasters. Once these events run their course and the accompanying market tension subsides, investors will need something else to latch on to. Perhaps the Bank of England (BoE) and European Central Bank (ECB) can fulfill this function, since both are on the verge of hiking their respective benchmark interest rates . Absent any other developments, the timing and speed of such hikes will probably dictate not only how these currencies perform against each other, but also how they perform against the Dollar.

Despite the numerous indications that both have given to the contrary, I don’t think either Central Bank is in a hurry to raise interest rates. Economic growth remains poor, unemployment is high, and inflation is still moderate. Neither is yet at the stage where it can unwind the monetary easing that it put in place at the height of the financial crisis. Moreover, both are wary about the potential impact of rate hikes on their respective currencies (a concern that I am ironically fomenting with this post).

It looks like the BoE will be the first to act. Combined with high energy prices, the bank’s easy monetary policy is putting extraordinary pressure on prices, and it now appears that inflation could reach 5% in 2011. In addition, the BoE voted 6-3 at its last meeting in favor of tightening, which means that a hike probably isn’t too far off. On the other hand, the ECB is talking tough, but it still doesn’t have much of an impetus to act. Inflation is moderate, and besides, the region’s banks remain too dependent on ECB cash for it to serious contemplate being aggressive.

Either way, the interest rate differential probably won’t be great enough to encourage any short-term speculation between the two currencies. In addition, I think investors will continue to look to the Yen and the Dollar for guidance, and we won’t see any significant movement in either direction. [The chart below is based on benchmark lending rates and isn’t necessarily applicable for retail forex trading].

This would create two opportunities for investors: Options traders should consider a long straddle, which involves selling a put and call at the same strike price (perhaps 1.15), pocketing the premiums, and praying that the rate doesn’t fluctuate much (since they would be exposed to unlimited risk). In the future, carry traders can also profit from the lack of volatility through a carry trading strategy, perhaps amplified by a little leverage. Be careful, however. Since interest rate differentials are currently so small (The current LIBOR rate disparity is a mere .05%!) and probably won’t widen to more than 1% over the next twelve months, any profits from interest could easily be wiped out by even the smallest adverse exchange rate movements.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Euro | 2 Comments »

British Pound Continues Gradual Ascent

Mar. 15th 2011

The British Pound has risen almost 15% against the Dollar over the last twelve months. It seems that the markets are ignoring the fiscal concerns that sent the Pound tumbling in 2010, and focusing more on inflation and the prospect of interest rate hikes. At this point, the Bank of England (BOE) is now racing with the European Central Bank (ECB) to be the first “G4” Central Bank to hike rates.

You can find cause for optimism towards the Pound in technical factors alone. That’s because while dozens of currencies appreciated against the Dollar in 2010, most were starting from a stronger base. For example, the Canadian and Australian Dollars collapsed during the credit crisis. However, both currencies made speedy recoveries to the extent all losses were erased in only two years. The British Pound, in contrast, still remains 25% below its pre-credit crisis high, more depressed than perhaps any other currency.

On the one hand, this is probably justifiable. The British economy is still in abysmal shape; the latest GDP figures revealed a .6% contraction in the fourth quarter of 2010. Meanwhile, the ECB forecasts only 1.4% growth in 2011, and many analysts think that might even be too optimistic. With the exception of Japan, which suffers from a unique strain of economic malaise (not to mention the 5% hit to GDP caused by the earthquake), the UK is unequivocally the weakest economy in the industrialized world.

On the other hand, this is mostly old news. The reason that investors are starting to get excited is interest rate hikes. According to the minutes from its March meeting, the BOE voted 6-3 to hold its benchmark interest rate at .5%. That means its awfully close to acting. The market consensus is for a 25 basis point rate hike in the next three months, and 2-3 additional hikes over the rest of the year. Depending on how the other G4 Central banks act, that will put the UK rates at the top of the pack.

However, it’s unclear how extensive this tightening will be. According to one analyst, “The probability of a hike in the next three months is significant but the lingering credit crunch, fiscal tightening and bleak outlook for real incomes suggest that if this is the beginning of a tightening cycle, it will be a very shallow one.” Moreover, low bond yields suggest that long-term inflation expectations (and hence, the need for rate hikes) remain low.

At this point, it looks like the UK is looking at a few years of stagflation. That’s certainly going to be bad for UK consumers and probably negative for most UK asset prices. However, short-term currency speculators are less concerned about economic fundamentals, and more concerned about (risk-adjusted) interest rate differentials. That means that if the BOE fulfills expectations, the Pound will probably get a little short-term kick.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Central Banks | No Comments »

British Pound Faces Contradictory 2011

Jan. 27th 2011

The last few years have been volatile for the British Pound. In 2007, it touched a 26-year high against the US Dollar, before falling to a 24-year low a little more than one year later. During the throes of the credit crisis, analysts predicted that it would drop all the way to parity. Alas, it has since managed to claw back a substantial portion of its losses, and finished 2010 close to where it started.

At the moment, however, there are two contradictory forces tugging at the Pound, which could send up upwards against the Euro but lower against the US Dollar. The first is the sovereign debt crisis in the EU, which flared up dramatically in 2010 and currently threatens to crippled the Euro. I will offer more commentary on this issue in a later post; for now, I just want to point out its role in supporting the Pound. While the Dollar is the Euro’s chief rival, many traders have turned to the Pound (and the Swiss Franc) because of their regional proximity. “As long as the euro-zone debt crisis is in the focus of the market, it will be the main driver of euro-pound,” summarized one strategist.

The second force (or set of forces) is propelling the Pound in the opposite direction. Basically, the UK economy remains depressed. Thanks to an unexpected contraction in the fourth quarter, GDP growth in 2010 was an exceptionally modest 1.7%. This was hardly enough to compensate for the average annual growth of .1%/year from 2006 to 2009, and send the Pound tumbling. Forecasts for 2011 and 2012 have since been revised downward to about 2%.

In order to spur Britain’s export sector, the Bank of England has deliberately acted to hold down the Pound, which it has managed to achieve through a combination of quantitative easing and low interest rates. “For a long time that’s what we were targeting, and we managed to get it down by about 25 percent — the exchange rate, that’s had a huge benefit to the U.K. economy,” a former member of the monetary policy committee recently admitted.

An unintended byproduct of this policy has been price inflation. At 3.75%, the inflation rate is among the highest in the industrialized world, and certainly the highest among G4 currencies. At the very least, the Bank of England will have to suspend any aspirations to match the Fed in printing more currency and expanding its QE program. It will probably also have no choice but to raise interest rates, which it might otherwise not have done until the economy is on more solid footing. The markets are currently projecting an initial rate hike of 25 basis points in the third quarter, and for the benchmark rate to exceed 1.5% by the end of the year, compared to .5% currently.

It’s difficult to say how the currency markets will make sense of this. Given that real interest rates will remain negative (due to inflation), it seems unlikely that any yield-seeking investors will suddenly start targeting the British Pound. In addition, given that the risk of ‘stagflation’ in the UK is now real and that the government is set to assume a record amount of new debt over the next few years, risk-averse investors will probably stay away. According to the latest Commitment of Traders report, speculators are already starting to establish bearish positions against the US Dollar.

While the Pound looks vulnerable, the big unknown is ultimately the EU fiscal crisis. If one of the peripheral members leaves the Euro, as some commentators predict will finally happen, then all bets (for the Pound, etc.) are off.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound | No Comments »

Pound Rally Runs out of Steam

Aug. 24th 2010

The rally in the Pound, which lifted it 10% from trough to peak, appears to be fizzling. The Pound is already down 3% in the last two weeks, and is trending downward. It now stands at a four-week low against the Dollar.

Looking back at the Pound’s two-month rise, it’s not hard to understand why it was unsustainable. You can see from the charts below that there was a strong correlation with the Euro and the S&P 500 over the same period of time. This suggests that the Pound rally was less a product of changing fundamentals and more due to a sudden decrease in risk aversion.

British Pound, Euro, S&P 500 Correlation

By no coincidence the rally in equities, the Euro, and a handful of other proxy vehicles for risk, all came to and end at the same time as the Pound. In a nutshell, the markets are back to focusing on fundamentals. Namely, the risk of a double-dip recession, combined with a lack of resolution in the Eurozone debt crisis is causing investors to think twice about making bets that entail any kind of risk.

In this regard, the Pound is especially vulnerable. On the economic front, the UK economy only grew by 1.1% in the second quarter, with economists predicting only modest growth for the year. According to an economist for the Bank of England, “It would be ‘foolish’ to rule out a renewed downturn.” Evidently, his bosses agree: “The Bank of England last week said growth will be weaker than it forecast in May, citing “continuing fiscal consolidation and the persistence of tight credit conditions.”According to a recent poll, almost half of British households are pessimistic about the country’s economic prospects in the near-term: “The proportion of pessimists is marginally lower than in July, but is higher than in any other month since March last year.”

Ironically, the efforts of the British government to curb spending and cut the deficit are perceived as making matters worse. Since these measures won’t be offset by lowered taxes, they will directly lead to lower economic growth. Given that both the Pound and UK bond prices are rising (implying an increased risk of default), I think this reinforces the point I made last week about the markets not caring at all in this economic climate about increasing national debt.

The icing on the cake is inflation. A British think-tank made headlines by predicting that the UK economy will emerge from recession next year, “But once recovery is under way, he thinks, then the Bank of England’s quantitative easing scheme, which pumped £200 billion into the economy in the wake of the credit crunch, will have terrible consequences.” Specifically, the think-tank is forecasting inflation of 10% and a benchmark interest rate of 10%.

British Pound September 2011 Futures
For now, this remains a distant prospect, and analysts are focusing on the fact that the economy will probably re-enter recession before it can officially exit from it. As for the Pound, forecasts are not optimistic: “Bears in a Bloomberg survey of strategists outnumber bulls 29 to 12, while TD Securities in Toronto, the most-accurate forecaster in the six quarters ended June 30, has the lowest estimate, predicting sterling will depreciate 15 percent versus the dollar by year-end.” According to the most recent Commitments of Traders report, institutional investors were still net long the Pound as of August 10. Futures prices, meanwhile, have moved in lockstep with spot prices, which suggests that futures traders are still waiting for more data before they weigh in on the Pound.

Personally, I’m having a tough time coming up with a prediction. I tend to agree with the characterization of “the foreign exchange markets post-crisis as a beauty parade with ugly contestants.” In other words, all of the major currencies are currently plagued by poor fundamentals. It’s hard to say that the Pound is in better or worse shape than the Dollar or the Euro. Still, given the way that markets have been trading, a return to (global) recession would not be kind to the Pound.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, News | 1 Comment »

Is There Any Hope for the Pound?

May. 14th 2010

Compared to the Euro, the Pound is Gold (figuratively speaking). Compared to everything else, well, the Pound is probably closer to linoleum. Bad geology metaphors notwithstanding, there really isn’t much to get excited about when looking at the Pound.

Let’s take the election, for example. Originally billed as a chance for a fresh start, politically, for the UK, the election has turned out to be nothing short of disastrous. Rather than producing a clear-cut victory, it has resulted in a hung Parliament. The way talks are currently shaping up, it looks like power will be shared by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. This is problematic,because neither party has a clear vision for dealing with the skyrocketing UK national debt; with the two parties working together, meanwhile, a compromise seems even more unlikely. “Investors are worried that a hung parliament will result in a weak government that will be unable to force through measures to reduce the UK’s high borrowing levels.”

As a result, many analysts now believe that the UK could lose its coveted AAA credit rating: “We believe that a downgrade…is more than likely since both parties agree that early expenditure cuts could harm the economy. The alternative could be that both parties agree on tax hikes to be implemented with the next budget. Both outcomes would be equally bearish for sterling.’ ”

Even aside from the imminent UK fiscal crisis, there is the fact that its economy continues to stagnate, its capital markets remain languid, and its balance of trade remains perennially mired in deficit. “Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that gap between the UK’s imports and exports hit a massive £7.5bn in March. The deficit — well ahead of an upwardly revised £6.3bn for |February — came as total imports surged £1.4bn over the month compared with a meagre £200m rise in exports.” From a fundamental standpoint, then, there is very little reason to own the Pound.

The picture is slightly more nuanced, when viewed through the lens of technical analysis. The most recent Commitment of Traders report, meanwhile, has showed short interest in the Pound building to record levels. In addition, the ratio of long/short positions is approaching 5:1. Some analysts believe this is inherently unsustainable, and that as net positions become more lopsided, a sharp reversal becomes even more likely. Then again, some analysts had the same theory about the Euro, which was solidly disproved after the short-squeeze rally was soon followed by a steady decline and a re-accumulation of short positions.

Other technical analysts are waiting to see where the Pound moves in the near-term before placing their bets. ” ‘Last week the market eroded the 15-month uptrend from the January 2009 low at $1.3500’…the $1.4255 Fibonacci level is the last defence for the pound ahead of the $1.3500 2009 low. For the downside pressure to be taken off, key resistance at $1.5055, the May 10 high, would need to break.’ ” The Pound is hovering dangerously close to a number of psychologically important levels. If it breaches $1.40, it would signal a 5-year low. Consider also that the Pound last touched $1.38 in 2001 and $1.35 in 1987.

5y chart GBP USD
To be fair, the Pound has hovered around $1.50 for most of the last 20 years, so its current level against the Dollar is not that low, relatively speaking. If investors come to their senses, and realize that the likelihood of UK sovereign default is probably not any higher than the US, and the coalition government is able to produce a convincing plan for reducing the deficit, then the Pound could bounce back. If the safe-haven mentality remains in force, however, the Pound will continue to be one of the big losers.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, News, Politics & Policy | No Comments »

Pound Falls, but may be Oversold

Mar. 10th 2010

One of the pitfalls of forex blogging (or all financial reporting for that matter) is that it’s inherently after-the fact. In other words, any information about the past – while relevant – is inherently useless, since it has theoretically already been priced into the asset (or currency in this case). Before I begin my post on the Pound’s recent decline and the factors that wrought it, then, I wanted to offer the caveat that in analyzing past events, we must simultaneously look to the future.

Anyway, for anyone watching the Pound Sterling over the last month, its performance has been startling. It is down 7.5% for the year already (we’re only in March!), and has fallen 12% from its August peak of 1.70 USD/GBP. This represents an unbelievable about-face, as the Pound spent much of 2009 floating upwards following its lows from the credit crisis.

What’s behind the decline? In short, economics and politics, or more precisely, the junction of economics and politics. As the British economy began its recovery from recession, analysts began to turn their attention to UK government finances. Another way of looking at this would be to say that analysts have shifted their gaze from the positive effect of government intervention (i.e. economic recovery) to the many lasting negative effects. Inflation and government solvency, of course, are the two most pernicious of the bunch.

The Bank of England’s quantitative easing program was comparable to the Fed’s program in relative terms, and in the aftermath of all of that money creation, inflation is slowly creeping up. The government’s free spending also contributed, and now, so is the sinking Pound, as prices for commodities and other imports are rising fast in local currency terms. Speaking of government spending, the UK government budget deficit is projected at 12% for 2010, slightly higher than 2009. You can see from the chart below that budget deficits are forecast to remain large for the next few years. Expectations are so low, in fact, that a reduction in the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014-2015 would be viewed as a victory.

Naturally, the UK government feels some pressure to reduce its deficit, both for the sake of financial solvency and to control inflation. The problem is that an election must be called before June, and until then, there is natural pressure to continue operating the money printing presses 24/7 in order to appease the voting public. The same goes for the Bank of England; it can’t be expected to tighten monetary policy and/or reverse quantitative easing until after the election.

I’m not going to pretend that I understand British politics, but from what I’m hearing, it seems the problem is that the election polls are now very close. Previously, a major victory by the Conservative Party was seen as inevitable, and this was viewed positively by financial markets because of the expectation that they would rein in spending. Recently, the incumbent Labour Party has closed the gap, to the extent that a hung Parliament is now a likely outcome. This would be even less desirable than an outright Labour victory, because the sharing of power would make it unlikely that reforms of any kind would be enacted. With regard to forex, some have posited an inverse correlation between the rising popularity of Labour and the falling Pound.

With the crisis in Greece still unresolved, analysts are also making comparisons to the UK. Some have suggested that if Greece were to receive a bailout, then, investors would turn their attention to the UK, whose finances are in equally bad shape. Without the protection of the Euro, the Pound would be open to speculative attack. On the other hand, that the (declining) Pound is independent from the Euro could become in advantage, if it boosts exports.

Going forward, it’s difficult to make any predictions until after the elections and/or the government makes a firm commitment to reduce spending and lower its deficit. Some analysts think that regardless, the Pound is doomed to continue falling, perhaps all the way to the $1.40 mark. Others see the current decline as the “darkness before the dawn.” As I noted in the introduction to this post, the latter could certainly be right. Besides, most of the uncertainty has probably already priced in. While most of the factors currently weighing on the Pound are bearish, some contrarian investors might see this as a good opportunity to buy. And who’s to say they’re wrong?

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, News, Politics & Policy | No Comments »

Pound’s Fate Tied to EU Debt Crisis

Feb. 17th 2010

Since the emergence of the debt crisis in Greece, UK policymakers have been once again patting themselves on the back for not joining the Euro. Otherwise, they would currently be in the same awkward position as France and Germany, whose economic might underpins the entire Eurozone and are wondering about if and how they should lend their support to Greece. Given that the Pound has fallen at an even faster clip than the Euro in recent weeks, however, it seems investors don’t share their sense of complacency. What gives?

One might be inclined to posit that the Pound is falling for reasons unrelated to Greece and the travails of the EU. After all, most of the economic data emanating from the UK these days isn’t exactly positive. GDP grew by an abysmal .4% in the fourth quarter of 2009, and the Bank of England, itself, has revised is 2010 projections down to 1.5%. In addition, inflation is creeping up and short-term rates remain low, such that real interest rates (and by extension, the carry associated with holding Pounds) in the UK are effectively negative.

While this alone would be grounds for selling the Pound, a cursory glance at GBP/USD and EUR/USD cross rates reveals that the Pound and Euro are falling in tandem. In my eyes, this implies that investors have impugned a connection between the situation in the EU (i.e. Greece and the other “PIGS” economies) and in the UK. And no wonder, since UK debt levels are as worrisome as any other country, developing or industrialized. Its budget deficit is 13%, slightly higher than in Greece. Private debt is estimated at £1.5 Trillion, or £60,000 per household, which is the highest (in relative terms) in the world. “Then there’s the trillion-pound bank bail-out, the trillion-pound public-sector pension liability, the trillion-pound public debt and those off-balance-sheet private finance initiatives schemes. If you add up Britain’s real liabilities you find that the UK is heading for a total debt burden of several times its GDP,” summarized one analyst.


Of course, this is nothing new. I, myself, have written about the looming UK debt crisis on previous occasions. While such a crisis is still years away, the turmoil in Greece is causing investors to cast fresh eyes on the similarities and differences with the UK, and they clearly don’t like what they see. On the one hand, Britain’s monetary independence means that it can deflate its debt (by simply printing more money), unlike Greece, whose membership in the European Monetary Union precludes such a possibility. While this means that Britain is ultimately less likely to default on its debt, it makes it more likely that it its currency will have to weaken at some point in the future, so that its liabilities remain manageable. Bond investors, then, are right to prefer UK Bonds, but currency investors are equally right to shun the Pound in favor of the Euro.

It seems that Britain’s conception of itself is somewhat flawed. While it thinks of itself as akin to France or Germany (and hence, is quite happy not to be an EU member at the moment), the markets seem to think of it as a Spain or Portugal. The implication is that the markets currently believe that the UK would do better if it was a member of the EU than on its own. Of course, that proposition is debatable (and still unlikely), but it’s worth bearing in mind because it’s what investors apparently believe.

As usual, the BOE remains (perhaps willfully) oblivious of all of this. It is mulling an extension of its quantitative easing program, which is supposed to end this month. This program is responsible for an expansion of the money supply equal to 14% of GDP in 2009 alone! Most economists consider it a dismal failure, and it seems to have succeeded only in catalyzing growth in prices (aka inflation) rather than output (aka GDP). “The suspicion is that the UK government and Bank of England is not worried that the pound remains weak in this repositioning of currencies. They may indeed welcome it. There is no immediate appetite for raising interest rates to strengthen sterling and no point making exports harder by strengthening the exchange rate.” They would be wise to bear in mind, though, that while currency depreciation is useful for devaluing existing debt, it can have the unintended consequence of scaring off investors, and make it difficult to fund future debt.

Currency investors may be ahead of them on this one.

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Pound’s Demise Will not be Hard to Time

Dec. 12th 2009

I’d like to follow up on my last post (Timing is Everything in Forex, Especially in this Environment) by looking at how to time one specific currency: the Pound. As I noted tongue-in-cheek with the title of this post, timing the Pound will not be difficult, since it is likely headed downward in both the short term and long term.

In the short-term, the Pound will be crippled by the UK’s economic woes: “Britain is the last of the big G20 countries still to be mired in recession. Its GDP has shrunk by 4.75% this year, far more than the 3.5% reckoned likely in April.” There’s no reason to pore through the economic indicators, since all signs suggest that it won’t be until 2010 that Britain returns to positive growth.

Of primary concern to forex markets, however, is not economic growth (or lack thereof, in this case), but rather how this will effect the decision-making of the Bank of England (BOE). To no surprise, the BOE announced yesterday that it would maintain its benchmark interest rate at .5%, and its liquidity program at current levels. It didn’t give any indication, meanwhile, that monetary policy on either of these fronts would change anytime soon.

Thus, Britain could conceivably replace the Dollar as one of the preferred funding currencies for the carry trade. While the Fed is also in no hurry to hike rates, the US economy has already emerged from the recession, which means that regardless of when it tightens, it will almost certainly be before the Bank of England. Unless the BOE pulls an audible then, timing the Pound will be fairly straightforward; the currency should begin to slip as soon as its peers begin to raise rates. Some analysts expect that the Pound will decline to $1.50 per Dollar within the next six months.


Over the long-term, the narrative governing the Pound is naturally more uncertain, but still straightforward. To try to dig itself out of recession, the government has spent itself well into the red, to the extent that this year’s budget deficit is forecast to be a whopping 12.6%, Next year could be even worse. The government has implemented a couple of half-baked measures designed to curb the deficit, but most of these are aimed at increasing tax revenue (which is futile during a recession), rather than trimming spending. While ratings on its sovereign debt were recently affirmed at AAA, Moody’s has warned that a downgrade in the next few years is not inconceivable.

So there you have it. As far as I’m concerned, the only question of timing, vis-a-vis the British Pound, is when the decline will begin. My guess is sometime in the beginning of 2010, when investors start getting serious about projecting near-term interest rate differentials, and pricing them into exchange rates. While most forex traders aren’t thinking this far down the road, it’s also comforting (for bears, not bulls, obviously) that the long-term fundamentals point to a sustained decline in the Pound. Whereas the Dollar could jump up before heading back down – making timing a crucial skill – the Pound will probably just head down.

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Pound, Dollar are ‘Sick’ Currencies

Oct. 11th 2009

A theme in forex markets (as well as on the Forex Blog) is that as the Dollar has declined, virtually every other asset/currency has risen. The rationale for this phenomenon is that the global economic recovery is boosting risk appetite, such that investors are now comfortable looking outside the US for yield. However, this market snapshot may have to be tweaked slightly, in accordance with a recent WSJ article (Sterling Looks Ready to Join the Sick List).

According to the report, “Similar to how investors sorted good banks from bad banks earlier this year, foreign-exchange buyers are starting to sort strong currencies from weaker currencies. The pound appears to be joining the dollar in the weak camp. Both countries have near-zero interest-rate targets, an aggressive policy aimed at boosting the economy, and yawning deficits.” In contrast, the article continues, the Yen and the Euro have risen, as have so-called commodity currencies.


While there’s no question that British economic and forex fundamentals are abysmal, it’s a bit hard to understand why the markets are picking on the Pound now. After all, the Euro, Swiss Franc, and Yen, for example, are plagued by some of the same fundamental problems: growing national debt, sluggish growth, low interest rates, etc. Investors can borrow in Yen nearly as cheaply as they can borrow in Dollars or Pounds, and the Bank of Japan is likely to keep rates low at least as long as the Bank of England (BOE), if not longer. Meanwhile, price inflation remains practically non-existent, which means that any capital that investors stash in the UK should be safe.

Perhaps, then, investors are zeroing in on the BOE’s Quantitative Easing program, which is the point of greatest overlap with the US Dollar. Relative to GDP, both currencies’ Central Banks have spent by far the most of any industrialized countries, in pumping newly printed money into credit markets. The BOE, in particular, is actually thinking about expanding its program. At a recent meeting, Mervyn King, Chairman of the Bank, led the opposition in voting for a 15% expansion, but was voted down by a majority of the bank’s other members. “The ‘next decision point‘ will be the Nov. 5 meeting,” said a former Deputy Governor of the Bank, at which point “Bank of England policy makers will consider expanding their bond purchase plan….on concern the economy’s recovery may be a ‘false dawn.’ ”

BOE Quantitative Easing (QE) Timeline Chart

The government meanwhile has demonstrated a certain ambivalence when it comes to the program. The head of the UK Debt Management Office indirectly encouraged the BOE to continues its purchases of bonds, for fear that stopping doing so could cause yields to skyrocket and make it difficult for the government to fund its activities. “A rapid sell-off could create a downward spiral of gilt prices which would make life harder for both it and the DMO.” On the other hand, one of the leaders of Britain’s conservative party – which is projected to take office after next year’s elections – has criticized the program on the grounds that it will lead to inflation.

From the BOE’s standpoint, it’s a no-win situation. Continue the policy, and you risk inflation and further invoking the ire of politicians. Wind it down, and you could tip the economy back into recession. For better or worse, it seems the BOE will err on the side of the former: “If we stopped supporting the economy now it would crash. Every country in the world and just about every informed commentator is saying the same thing. The job is not finished.” Given that inflation is projected to hover around 0% for the next two years, the BOE still has some breathing room.

As for the charge that the surfeit of cash flowing into markets is weakening the Pound, ‘So be it,’ seems to be the attitude of Mervn King who suggested that, “The weaker pound was ‘helpful’ to efforts to rebalance the British economy toward exports.” While he backtracked afterward, it still stands that the BOE hasn’t made any efforts to stem the decline of the Pound, and is at best indifferent towards it.

Regardless of where the BOE stands, the Pound is not being helped by the weak financial and housing sectors, which during the bubble years, comprised the biggest contribution to UK growth. Exports are weak, and domestic manufacturing activity has yet to stabilize. As a result, “The British economy will contract 4.4 percent this year before expanding 0.9 percent in 2010, the International Monetary Fund predicts.”

Objectively speaking, then, it makes sense to call the Pound sick. Still, many other currencies are just as sick. I guess the perennial lesson is that in forex, everything is relative.

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Record Rise in British Pound comes to an End

Aug. 20th 2009

From trough to peak (March 10 – August 5), the British Pound appreciated by a whopping 25%, its strongest performance in such a short time period since 1985. The Pound has fallen mightily since then, and most factors point to a continued decline.


On almost every front, the Pound is being buried under a mound of bad news. Its economy is currently one of the weakest in the world, especially compared to other industrialized countries; on a quarterly basis, its economy is contracting at the fastest rate in over 60 years. Forecasts for UK economic growth are commensurately dismal: “Median estimates in Bloomberg economist surveys see the U.S. shrinking 2.6 percent in 2009 and expanding 2.2 percent in 2010, compared with a 4.1 percent contraction followed by 0.9 percent growth in the U.K.”

In addition, the only signs of growth appear to be a direct result of government spending, a notion that is evidenced by the latest retail sales and housing market data, both of which remain at depressed levels. “People are worried that the global recovery is based on unsustainable government spending and numbers like this from the U.K. only encourage those fears,” said one analyst in response.

While government spending, meanwhile, is arguably a valuable tool for stimulating economic growth, analysts worry that it might be reaching the limits of feasibility. “The Office for National Statistics said the budget shortfall was 8 billion pounds ($13.2 billion), the largest for July since records began in 1993.” On an annual basis, the government is planning to issue 220 Billion Pounds in new debt, to fund a budget deficit currently projected at 12.4% of GDP, easily the largest since World War II.

The Bank of England’s prescription for the country’s economic woes are also provoking a backlash. When the Bank announced at its last monetary policy meeting that it would expand its quantitative easing program by 50 Billion Pounds, the markets were aghast. Imagine investor shock, when the minutes from that meeting were released last week, revealing that 3 dissenting governors were agitating for an even bigger outlay! No less than Mervyn King, the head of the bank, “push[ed] to expand the central bank’s bond-purchase program to 200 billion pounds ($329 billion).

Given the dovishness that this implies, combined with an inflation rate that is rapidly approaching 0%, investors have rightfully concluded that the Bank is nowhere near ready to raise interest rates. “The market was expecting the BOE to be one of the first to hike rates. It’s becoming clear that’s unlikely, undermining the pound,” conceded one economist. Interest rate futures reflect an expectation that the Bank will hold rates at least until next spring. LIBOR rates, meanwhile, just touched a record low.

As a result, forecasts and bets on the Pound’s decline now seem to be the rule. “BNP Paribas…predicted another 9.3 percent decline to $1.50 in 12 months…After the Bank of England decision, pound futures and options speculators became more pessimistic as weekly bets favoring sterling fell more than 32 percent, the most since November.” In short, “Sterling is over-priced at current levels.”

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British Pound due for Correction, Thanks to BOE

Aug. 11th 2009

The British Pound’s rise since the beginning of March has been nothing short of spectacular: “Improving economic data have helped the pound advance 14 percent against the dollar this year and 12 percent against the euro.” Due primarily to a recovery in risk appetite and the concomitant belief that the Pound had been oversold following the onset of the credit crisis, investors began pouring hot money back into the UK. As recently as two weeks ago, one analyst intoned that, “Longer term, we are in part of an uptrend for the pound. I don’t think this is over.”


Since then, however, a series of negative developments have cast doubt on such optimism. The first was the release of economic data, which indicated an unexpected widening in Britain’s trade deficit. While exports rose, imports rose even faster, causing analysts to wonder whether it would be realistic to expect the British economic recovery would be led by exports: “We remain skeptical that the U.K. is about to become an export-driven economy any time soon. A return to sustained growth continues to look unlikely in the near term,” said one economist.

The second development was the decision by the Bank of England to expand its quantitative easing program: “The central bank spent 125 billion pounds since March as part of the asset-purchase program and had permission to use as much as 150 billion pounds, about 10 percent of Britain’s gross domestic product. Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has now authorized an extra 25 billion pounds.” This came as a huge shock to investors, which had collectively assumed that the program had already been concluded.

Upon closer analysis, it appears that the rise of the Pound and the expanding trade deficit might have contributed to the BOE’s decision: “According to the Bank’s rule of thumb, this [the Pound’s rise] is equivalent to interest rate increases of 1.5 percentage points.” However, interest rates are already close to zero. The BOE has already conveyed its intention to maintain an easy monetary policy for the near-term (March 2010 interest rate futures reflect an expectation for a 75 basis point rate hike); otherwise, there is nothing else it could do on the interest rate front. “Unless the UK is ready to deflate its production costs heavily, it can only achieve required competitiveness by reducing the value of sterling…The BoE knows this and its decision to increase its quantitative easing efforts may well have to be seen in the context of summer sterling strength.”

The final factor has been the Dollar’s sudden reversal. Previously, the Pound had been helped as much by UK optimism as by Dollar pessimism. This changed last week, when positive US economic data triggered expectations of a near-term economic recovery and consequent Fed rate hikes. In short, the Pound must now rest on its own two feet, and can no longer count on Dollar pessimism for a boost: “The current gloomy sentiment, which has chipped some 3% off sterling’s value against the dollar in the past four trading days, represents a sharp turnaround.”

The prognosis for UK economic recovery should receive some clarity tomorrow, when the Bank of England releases a report on inflation and GDP. At this point, we will have a better idea as to what to expect from the Pound going forward.

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Pound: All Indicators Point to Down

Jul. 16th 2009

If an investor only read the story, Pound a Buy Before ‘Steep’ U.K. Recovery, they could be forgiven for assuming that the fundamentals underlying the Pound must be strong enough to just such a bold claim. In fact, virtually all economic indicators are trending downward, and most analysts (with the exception of the source behind the above story) are revising their Pound forecasts proportionately.

While all data is subject to “spin,” all of the big picture indicators paint a consistently negative picture of the UK economy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on June 24 that U.K. gross domestic product will shrink 4.3 percent this year, revising its March forecast for a 3.7 percent contraction. Sterling has fallen 1 percent in the past month. Meanwhile, unemployment is still rising (albeit at a slower pace than before), and prices are falling.

The BOE will probably expand its liquidity program by the sanctioned 25 Billion Pounds, and “Speculation has also started to circulate that the Bank of England could announce it will seek approval from the Treasury to boost the size of the program even further.” Meanwhile, the government deficit is surging: “The U.K.’s credit rating is an issue that’s still there and public spending in an election year is causing concern for investors.

A sane analyst, then, could only come to one reasonable conclusion- that the Pound is doomed. In the short-term, the Pound will be punished by a weak economic prognosis, low interest rates, and the inflationary monetary/fiscal policy. Additionally, as the summer rolls in, investors will likely move funds outside of the UK into more stable locales. In the long-term, the Pound is equally dubious: “The pound’s decline in 2008 returned the currency to its real trade-weighted exchange rate of the 1970s, which could be its ‘new fair value’ as the U.K. becomes a net oil importer and is less able to rely on financial services to earn foreign exchange.”

There is even less equivocation among investors, themselves. According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “More hedge funds and large speculators have positioned for a decline in the pound against the dollar rather than a rise — so-called net shorts — every week since August.” While the Pound is currently trading around $1.65, “The median of 39 analysts and strategists’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg is for the pound to trade at $1.59 by the end of September and $1.62 by the end of the year.”

Pound Rises

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British Pound “Pauses for Breath” [Part 2 of 2]

Jun. 30th 2009

By coincidence, today’s release of final GDP data confirms – rather than negates – the economic picture that I painted yesterday. “The economy slumped a downwardly revised 2.4% in the first quarter, which was narrowly the largest decline since the second quarter of 1958. The annual decline in output was 4.9%, the largest since records began in 1948.” The news didn’t affect the Pound, given that it refers to a period that ended a few months ago. At the same time, it revealed the seriousness of UK economic troubles and the depth of the hole that it must climb out of in order to achieve recovery.

Of course, the Bank of England is doing its part to try to help the economy along: The minutes from its last meeting showed that the BOE “voted unanimously to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.5 percent and maintain its 125 billion pound quantitative easing programme, minutes showed on Wednesday.” Experts reckon that the BOE will probably continue to keep rates low. Unemployment remains high and output will likely remain well below its potential well into any economic recovery. One analyst argues, “Even if the recession is now over, inflation could keep falling until mid-2011. Which means that it should be below its 2 per cent target in late 2011 and early 2012. Because Bank rate is set with regard to where inflation will be in two years time – as it takes that long for monetary policy to significantly affect prices – this points to rates staying low for at least a few more months.”

But the Bank’s rate cuts are being offset by the Pound’s recent 15% rise- its strongest quarterly performance in over 20 years. Based on some models, such a dramatic rise is equivalent in force to a 4% hike in interest rates. The quantitative easing program is also beset with problems, namely that 50% of the newly printed money has been used to purchase assets/bonds from foreign investors, which are more likely to take the money out of the British economy.

The government, meanwhile, is probably out of options, and may have to even unwind some of its fiscal stimulus due to lack of funds. In fact, the “deterioration in the U.K.’s public finances…prompted Standard & Poor’s to warn on May 21 that the country could lose its AAA debt rating. The firm estimated the cost of propping up Britain’s banks at 100 billion pounds ($166 billion) to 145 billion pounds and said government debts could double to almost 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2013.” The budget deficit in 2009 alone could surpass 15%.

uk-budget-deficitIn short, there is potentially more downside than upside to these efforts, especially as far as the Pound is concerned. The BOE’s easy money policy makes the Pound an unattractive buy in the short term, while its QE program could stoke inflation in the long-term, without much benefit to the economy. Furthermore, it will be difficult to rein in this program because of the perennial budget deficits of the government, which “must sell about 900 billion pounds of gilts over five years…The Bank of England will buy a third of these gilts.” The recent rise in government bond yields as well as the rising cost of bond insurance (i.e. credit default swap premiums) confirm that investors are growing increasingly nervous. According to a Harvard University historian, “The probability of a real sterling crisis is around one in three.”

Still, there are optimists. Says one analyst, “The U.K. economy’s heavy dependence on the finance sector, recently seen as a big flaw, has also turned into a benefit. ‘Sterling is basically a bet on global financial well-being.’ ” Also, “Foreign demand for gilts rose to an all-time high in the first quarter of this year as concern the world economy would stay mired in a recession drove investors to the relative safety of government securities.” But these notions are somewhat contradictory. When you map these ideas against the backdrop of the Pound, you can see that is benefited primarily from the perception of recovery- not from the safe-haven perception.

These optimists believe the Pound will rise as high as $1.80 against the USD and €1.40 against the Euro. Under the best-case scenario, quantitative easing and government spending will trickle down to the bedrock of the economy, and will be unwound immediately after the economy enters a recovery period so as not to spur inflation. Under the worst-case scenario, though, the government will continue to run large budget deficits and fail to find enough buyers for its debt. The resulting stagflation would cause investors to rush for the exits and for the currency to collapse. In all likelihood, the actual outcome will fall somewhere in between.

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British Pound “Pauses for Breath” [Part 1 of 2]

Jun. 29th 2009

After a nearly 20% rise against the Dollar, the British Pound has been rangebound for nearly the entire month of June, with one columnist likening the situation to a “pause for breath.” For him, this amounts to a temporary cessation on the Pound’s inevitable upward path: “Compared to long term levels, the pound was still better value than its peers. He said: ‘It’s still cheap – about 10% below it’s trade-weighted average at present.’ ” For others analysts, however, the picture is not so cut-and-dried.


Forgetting about purchasing power parity for a minute, there are numerous factors which could halt the Pound’s rise. First and foremost is the British economy, which is still struggling to find its feet. “The U.K. economy will recover ‘mildly’ next year, according to the OECD, compared with a previous projection of a 0.2 percent contraction. Gross domestic product will drop 4.3 percent this year, versus a March forecast of 3.7 percent.”

Some economic indicators have begun to stabilize, but the two most important sectors, housing and finance, are still wobbly. Economists warn that “any recovery could be slow and uneven because banks are still unwilling to pump loans into the economy.” In the latest month for which data is available, mortgage lending slowed to a record low, with consumer lending not far behind. With regard to housing,”The annual fall in house prices in England and Wales slowed for a third consecutive month in June, according to property data company Hometrack, but prices were still 8.7 percent lower than a year ago.”

There is the possibility that the BOE’s quantitative easing plan and the government’s fiscal stimulus will provide the economy with the boost it needs. At the same time, both programs will have to be reined at some point, sooner rather than later in the case of government spending. With UK national debt predicted to reach 90% of GDP by 2010, “Most people – the prime minister excepted, apparently – believe that taxes will have to rise and/or public spending fall after the next election. This would at least threaten to hold back economic activity.” Not to mention that both QE and government spending could actually backfire and generate inflation without economic growth (i.e. stagflation). BOE Governor Mervyn King captured this overall sentiment, when he said, “I feel more uncertain now than ever. This is not the pattern of a recession coming into recovery that we’ve seen since the 1930s.”

In short, from a purely economic standpoint, it doesn’t look good for the Pound Sterling. But of course forex is about much more than GDP…stay tuned for Part 2, in which I’ll elaborate on this point, and bring interest rates and inflation into the discussion.

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British Pound Rises to Seven Month High, but Holes are Beginning to Appear

Jun. 2nd 2009

You may have noticed that the phrase “seven month high” appears quite frequently in recent Forex Blog posts, regardless of the currency being discussed. I offer this preface as context for Pound’s recent rally because it suggests that the factors driving the Pound are hardly unique from the factors driving other currencies. In other words, “It’s a mixture of a dollar-weakness story and a global-growth story.”

Of course, it would it be unfair to so glibly dismiss the Pound, so let’s look at the underlying picture. On the macro-level, the British economy is still anemic: “Gross domestic product dropped 1.9 percent in the latest quarter, the most since 1979, according to the Office for National Statistics. The International Monetary Fund now expects the British economy to shrink by 4.1 percent in 2009.” Without drilling too far into the data, suffice it to say that most of the indicators tell a similar story.

The only relative bright spots are the housing market and financial sector. Mortgage applications are rising, and there is evidence that housing prices are slowing in their descent, perhaps even nearing a bottom. Optimists, naturally, are arguing that this signals the entire economy is turning around. History and common sense, however, suggest that even if the most recent data is not a blip, it’s still unlikely that the UK will able to depend on the housing sector to drive future growth. Besides, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that foreign buying (due to favorable exchange rates) is propping up real estate prices, rather than a change in market fundamentals.

The stabilization of financial markets is also good for the UK, as 1/3 of its economy is connected to the financial sector. “Sterling is basically a bet on global financial well-being…Now that the banking sector has stepped away from the Armageddon scenario, the prospects for London and the U.K. economy look better.” But as with housing, it’s unlikely that the financial sector will return to the glory days, in which case the UK will have to turn elsewhere in its search for growth.

What about the Bank of England’s heralded attempt at Quantitative easing? While it’s still to early to draw conclusions, the initial data is not good. In fact, the most recent data indicates that half of the bonds that the BOE bought last month (with freshly minted cash) were from foreign buyers, which causes inflation without any of the economic benefits from an increase in the domestic flow of money. Given that S&P recently downgraded the outlook for UK credit ratings, it’s no surprise that foreigners are moving towards the exits. In short, “With underlying weakness in money and credit – plus large gilt sales by overseas investors – we doubt that quantitative easing is playing much direct role in the economy’s possible turnaround,” summarized one analyst.

If you ask me, the Pound rally is grounded in nothing other than naive technical analysis, which relies on indicators that are largely self-fulfilling. In other words, if the Pound seems like it should rise, than it probably will, simply as a result of investor perception. “Citigroup Inc. said in a report last week the pound is ‘among the most undervalued major currencies…’ Barclays Plc predicts it will rise as much as 18 percent against the dollar and 11 percent versus the euro in the coming year. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sees a 23 percent gain versus the dollar and 15 percent advance against the euro.” Call me skeptical, but it’s hard to understand what kind of analysis underlies these predictions other than simple intuition. Sure the Pound was probably oversold, but is a 20% rise is two months really justified?

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data indicated a slight downtick, but “big speculative players continue to hold large net short positions in the pound versus the dollar,” which suggests that the savviest investors are not yet sold on the rally. Emerging markets offer growth and higher yield. Commodity currencies, such as the  Australian and New Zealand dollars, rise in line with energy and commodity prices. Someone please tell me where the Pound fits into this?

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Pound Sterling Trends Downward as BOE Expands QE

May. 11th 2009

The Pound is holding its own against the USD, even touching a four-month high last week. But against other major currencies, the story is just the opposite. While managing to avoid parity against the Euro, for example, the Pound has nonetheless remained range-bound against the common currency. The Australian Dollar, meanwhile, has risen to $2 against the Pound for the first time in 13 years.
How to explain the stagnation of the Pound? It depends on which currency pair you look at. Against the Dollar, the narrative remains one of risk aversion; when stocks rise, so usually does the Pound. “The U.K. pound is joining other currencies in beating up on the dollar,” announced one analyst on a day that stocks and commodities rallied broadly. The Pound has also been able to hold its own against the Dollar because both currencies’ Central banks have embarked on similar quantitative easing plans, which could prove equally inflationary in the long run. [Chart courtesy of Economist].

eu-us-uk-interest-rates In fact, the Bank of England just announced a huge expansion in its program, increasing total debt buying (i.e. money printing) by $50 Billion. One analyst summarized the impact of this announcement on forex markets as follows: “The Bank of England’s aggressive stance with regard to quantitative easing is adding to concern about the economy and that is negative for sterling.” Not much nuance there….

In fact, this is especially bad for the Pound against the Euro, where a juxtaposition of the Central Banks’ respective approaches to the credit crisis reveals stark differences: “The weakness in the pound suggests the market is drawing a contrast between the ECB, which seems to be dragging its legs on quantitative easing, and the BOE, which is still ‘full-steam ahead.’ ” Where the ECB is providing liquidity indirectly in the form of swaps and guarantees, the BOE is printing money and injecting it right into capital markets.

“Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, has said the exit strategy will be dictated by the outlook for inflation and that central banks should not support markets that cannot survive on their own,” but investors remain skeptical and for good reason. “Britain will sell a record 220 billion pounds of gilts this fiscal year, 50 percent more than last year.” Based on the fact that yields have risen for four straight weeks (against the backdrop of the first “failed” auction ever for UK government bonds), there is doubt that the government can finance its deficits.

The BOE continues to be roundly smacked with criticism, for its role in fomenting the credit crisis and in not adequately responding to it: “It happens that in the early years of inflation targeting, it did produce a stable economy. But I think it’s now clear that it can’t, by itself, produce a stable economy,” argued one commentator. Unemployment rates in the UK remain at frighteningly high levels. The government’s own economists (which are more optimistic than third-party forecasts) forecast GDP at -3.5% for 2009, with a modest recovery in 2010. Of course, these forecasts should be taken with a grain of salt, as they hinge on the crucial assumption that the BOE’s interest rate cuts and quantitative easing plan will soon trickle down through the economy, proof of which has still not been observed.

As a result, I’m personally between neutral and bearish for the UK Pound. For as long as stocks continue to rally, investors will remain Adistracted. If and when the rally loses steam (I am skeptical that the rally is sustainable), they will quickly turn their attention to comparative economic and monetary conditions; suffice it to say that Pound won’t stack up well.

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British Pound Rises as Real Estate Market Improves?

Apr. 20th 2009

The British Pound recently touched a 3-month high against the US Dollar, and market players are betting the currency’s run will continue: “Traders are paying a 0.25 percentage-point premium for one- week call options on the pound relative to puts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.” In other words, more investors believe the Pound will rise than believe it will fall.

The Pound is faring especially well against the Euro, and the possibility of parity is becoming increasingly remote. “ ‘There are more and more people thinking there will be prolonged declines in the euro, especially against the pound,’ ” summarized one analyst.

Bulls attribute the sudden strength to an improvement in the real estate market. “A survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) found that new inquiries in the housing market had increased for the fifth consecutive month in March, ” en route to breaching a six-year high. Mortgage lending, which would necessarily be required to support this increased demand, are also rising, albeit from an “abysmal low.” Meanwhile, prices are still falling in the majority of markets, and real estate agents remain pessimistic.

The economic picture is still grim. A review of the UK economic timeline reveals that while the financial sector seems to have (been) stabilized, most economic indicators continue to trend downwards. “Economists predict the Treasury will anticipate a 3-3.5 percent slowdown in the economy this year, much more than a forecast in November for a 0.75-1.25 percent slowdown.” The budget is scheduled to be released later this week, and analysts expect a wide budget deficit that will need to be fueled by an increase in borrowing and/or the printing of new money. Speaking of which, the Bank of England is in the same position as its counterparts in the EU and US, which implies that the Pound should be trading at a consistent level with the Dollar and Euro.

In short, it’s difficult to ascertain whether the Pound’s recent upside is a product of technical factors or a genuine improvement in the fundamental situation. On the technical side, the currency had probably become oversold from irrational risk aversion, and the current rally could represent a pullback. Until there is definitive evidence that the British economy has turned the corner and/or that the BOE plan shows signs of success, I would advise skepticism.


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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound | 1 Comment »

Pound Moves up Cautiously as Risk Aversion Declines

Mar. 27th 2009

Since touching a fresh 24-year low in the beginning of March, the British Pound has recovered strongly, rising 5% against the USD in a matter of days. Analysts are at a loss to explain the sudden strength of the Pound, outside the confines of the safe-haven hypothesis: “The risk premium that sterling has taken on works both ways, and you can see sterling outperforming whenever risk appetite picks up.”

As another analyst points out, however, ascertaining the role of risk aversion in the markets has become somewhat circular: “Observers…draw this assessment purely from price action. Rising equities means the market is less risk averse. And the way we know there is less risk adversity is that the stocks have rallied.” Applying this argument to forex, softening risk aversion is contributing to a stronger Pound. At the same time, observers point to the rising Pound as a signal that risk aversion has softened. In short, the safe-haven trade is surely not the most convincing explanation.

In fact, by all accounts, the Pound should be falling. The latest data shows that retail sales plunged by 1.9% on a monthly basis. GDP is projected to fall to such an extent that “in 2009 Britain will slip to 12th place (from 7th in 2007) among the 15 ‘old’ members of the European Union, behind all except Spain, Greece and Portugal.” Meanwhile, the Central Bank of the UK has warned that Britain’s government finances have become so fragile that the government will have difficulty carrying out new spending plans. Investors have taken note, and demand for the latest auction of UK government bonds is believed to be the “lowest in history.”

Given all the bad news, perhaps the Pound’s recent rise can be best attributed to technical factors. “The $1.45 level represents so-called resistance on a descending trend line connecting the January high of $1.5373 and the February peak of $1.4986.” Given that the Pound has since sunk back below $1.45, it can be reasonably discerned that a cluster of sell orders were executed at this level.

Over the longer-term, the prognoses for the UK economy generally, and the Pound specifically, are not good. Thanks to a low exchange rate, inflation is actually rising. It is perhaps a welcome development, since it indicates that the UK was (temporarily) averted deflation, but it could also be a product of the quantitative easing plan announced earlier this month, whereby the Bank of England will flood the banking system with newly minted money. “Such a tactic can dilute the currency, and the perception that such dilution is about to occur is dragging the Pound down right now.”

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UK, EU Central Banks Follow the Federal Reserve

Mar. 6th 2009

Yesterday, both the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of the UK cut their benchmark interest rates to record lows. This is especially incredible in the case of the UK, whose Central Bank over 300 years old! You can see from the following chart that both Central Banks have more than made up for their respectively slow starts in easing monetary policy by effecting several dramatic rate cuts, following the example of the Federal Reserve. The baseline UK rate now stands at .5%, only slightly higher than the Federal Funds rate, and slightly lower than the 1.5% ECB rate.

Given that they have essentially reached the terminus of their monetary policy options, all three Central Banks are exploring further options aimed at pumping money into their respective economies. The Fed has already “announced a program to buy $100 billion in the direct obligations of housing related government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan banks — and $500 billion in mortgage-based securities backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae.” As I wrote in a related article, “this was quickly followed by repurchase programs, lending facilities, investments in money market funds, and option agreements, all of which were designed to supplement its ‘traditional open market operations and securities lending to primary dealers.’ The Fed’s efforts also worked to ease the liquidity shortage in credit markets abroad by entering into swap agreements with several foreign Central Banks suffering from acute Dollar shortages.”

In conjunction with the rate cut, the Bank of the UK, meanwhile, will pump £150bn directly into UK credit markets through liquidity support, buying public and private debt, and asset purchases. “The main purpose of quantitative easing is not to send the money supply into orbit but to stop it from crashing…the broad money held by households has risen at a worryingly slow rate over the past year, and holdings by private non-financial firms have actually been dropping.” In contrast to the monetary programs of the UK and US, the ECB has thus far refrained from the kind of liquidity support that would necessitate printing new money. Instead, “the central bank will continue offering euro-zone banks unlimited loans at the central bank’s policy rate until at least the end of this year.”

The interest rate cuts were announced simultaneously with a spate of macroeconomic data, which collectively paint a bleak picture. Eurozone growth is projected at -2.7% for 2009 and 0% for 2010. The current unemployment rate at 8.2% and climbing. The thorn in the side of the EU is represented by eastern Europe, where growth is falling at an alarming pace, dragging the EU down with it. While EU member states have pledged to intervene if one of their own falls into bankruptcy, it’s unlikely that they would intervene similarly if a non-EU member state went bust. The UK economy is similarly desperate, having contracted at an annualized rate of 5.8% in the most recent quarter. The wild cards are the real estate and financial sectors, the fortunes of which are increasingly intertwined.

So what do the forex markets have to say about all this? Economists have used the dual phenomena of risk aversion and deflation to explain the interminable weakness in the the Pound and Euro. Everyone is surely familiar with the notion of the US as “safe haven” during periods of global financial instability. The deflation hypothesis, meanwhile, suggests that the ECB (and to a lesser extent, the Bank of UK), fell behind the curve when easing liquidity. The ECB, especially has harped on inflation as a reason for cutting rates more quickly. Given that investors are now more concerned with capital preservation than price inflation, it follows that they would prefer to invest where Central Banks were more vigilant about deflation (i.e. the US).

Personally, I think that the continued declines in both currencies, in spite of steep interest rate cuts, indicates that the deflation hypothesis is bunk, and investors remain fixated on risk aversion. By no coincidence, the temporary rebound in US stocks that took place in January was also accompanied by a bump in the Euro. (See chart below).

I think this mindset is reasonable, but only in the short-term. Given the current economic environment, I don’t think investors (and currency traders) can be faulted for ignoring the possibility that quantitative easing and liquidity programs will have to be funded with the printing of new money, which would be inherently inflationary. Many comparisons are being made with Japan, whose ill-fated quantitative-easing program succeeded only in inflating a bond-market bubble and vastly increasing Japanese public debt. According to one columnist, “it’s hard to argue that quantitative easing ended deflation; high oil prices did that. Meanwhile, the economy cured on its own most of the structural problems such as excess capacity and too much debt associated with the deflationary environment.”

In short, with a medium and long-term investing horizon in mind, I think the ECB’s approach to dealing with the credit crisis is more conducive to monetary stability. Thus, when investors grow weary of the idea of US as safe haven, they will no doubt focus instead on fundamentals. At which point, the ECB will likely be rewarded for fulfilling its anti-inflation mandate, in the form of a stronger Euro.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Central Banks, Commentary, Euro | 7 Comments »

British Pound: It’s All Relative

Feb. 2nd 2009

Since the inception of the credit crisis, perhaps no currency has been beaten down more than the British Pound, with analysts bitterly divided about whether the currency will fall further. A lot depends on whether the British efforts to save its devastated banking sector are successful. The government has already moved to nationalize the Bank of Scotland, and is quickly moving to shore up the capital positions of other vulnerable banks. Experts point to the Pound's historic volatility, however, as an indication that investors have always fled, and will continue to flee the UK in times of uncertainty. Jim Rogers, whose partner George Soros famously "broke" the Bank of England in 1992, forecasts a bleak future, although his motives are questionable. Ultimately, the fate of the Pound is entirely relative, as is the case with all currencies. In other words, if investors suddenly changed their minds about the perceived stability of the Dollar and Yen, the Pound could quickly recover. Business Week reports:

As investors begin to renew their focus on the problems of other economies, the pressure on sterling may ease. The selling could turn to buying if investors suddenly decide they'd rather take a little risk to earn return, rather than watching their cash evaporate.

Read More: Playing a Rebound in the Pound

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British Pound Oversold?

Jan. 16th 2009

Last week, the British Pound recorded its strongest performance against both the Dollar and Euro in nearly 20 years, on the basis of both technical and fundamental factors. On the surface, the Bank of England interest rate cut that prompted the rally would seem to be be negative for the Pound, since lower yield makes Britain a less attractive place to invest. On a deeper level, the relative modesty of the rate cut signalled to investors that the Bank of England is conscious of currency markets (the record decline in the Pound in 2008) when carrying out monetary policy. In addition, the BOE's proactive response to the credit crisis dwarfs the actions of the European Central Banks, which risks falling further behind the curve. In other words, investors began to question why they were pushing the Euro close to parity, when the economic fundamentals aren't much better in the EU than in the UK. Bloomberg News reports:

"The euro fundamentals are looking increasingly shaky," [said] a currency strategist. "It's clearer than ever the ECB has seriously misjudged the dire situation the region now finds itself in."

Read More: Pound Posts Record Weekly Gain Against Euro as BOE Cuts Rates

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in British Pound, Central Banks, Euro | 1 Comment »

UK, EU Rates Headed Downwards

Jan. 8th 2009

As investors gradually re-acquaint themselves with risk-taking, the interest rate story is once again dominating forex markets. For the last few weeks, this meant that investors were taking advantage of record-low US interest rates to fund carry trades in riskier currencies. Most recently, however, investors have begun to focus on the interest rate picture on the other side of the Atlantic. The Bank of UK just lowered rates to 1.5% and is "threatening" to match the Fed by dropping rates all the way to zero. The European Central Bank, meanwhile, is probably on the cusp of a similar interest rate cut. As commodity prices have relaxed and the credit crunch has slowed the expansion of the money  supply, the ECB is firmly justified in cutting rates, under the pretext of fulfilling its mandate, which is to guard against inflation. The upshot is that interest rate differentials, which have been fueling the Dollar's recent decline, may become less pronounced over the next year. Bloomberg News reports:

"There is increasingly more room for the ECB to be more aggressive on rate cuts. That will naturally put more pressure on the euro from an interest-rate differential perspective. We're seeing interest-rate differentials really come back into play in terms of a currency driver."

Read More: Euro Falls to Three-Week Low on Speculation ECB Will Cut Rates

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Pound Versus the Euro

Jan. 7th 2009

In recent years, the idea of parity seemed to pop up repeatedly in forex markets. First, the Canadian Dollar breached the mythical 1:1 barrier against the USD; then, it looked as though the Australian Dollar would follow suit. The most recent battle for parity is being waged across the Atlantic Ocean, between the British Pound and the Euro. Both economic and monetary circumstances favor the Euro, as the housing crisis pummeled the UK economy and the UK Central Bank subsequently embarked on a steep program of monetary easing. The Euro has probably also received a boost from the perception that the EU is one of the most stable economies and investing locales, outside of the US. In any event, investors tend to get carried away with psychological milestones and ignore economic fundamentals, which means the Euro could quickly achieve parity, before pulling back. The Wall Street Journal reports:

On Monday, one euro briefly bought almost 98 pence, a new record. That paves the way for parity “as early as this week,” wrote Ashraf Laidi, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Read More: The Battle of Hastings, Revisited in Forex Markets

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Lower Pound a Mixed Blessing

Dec. 23rd 2008

The British Pound has fallen so sharply in 2008 that parity with the Euro isn't that far-fetched. The problem is that the UK economy now closely mirrors that of the US, minus the perceived "safe haven" aspects. In fact, the UK now has a twin deficits problem of its own, with a trade imbalance that exceeds 4% of GDP and government spending set to rise in response to the credit crisis. Meanwhile, UK interest rates have already been reduced drastically, and could fall all the way to zero, again mirroring the US. The combination of cheap money and higher imports is raising the specter of inflation, and frightening away foreign investors. Under ordinary circumstances, a cheaper Pound could be an effective remedy for recession, but when the entire global economy is reeling, it probably can't accomplish much. The Telegraph reports:

Even though sterling has fallen, exports orders remain weak. Competitive devaluations rarely work. But they have no chance of when the rest of the world is slowing too.

Read More: Weak sterling means the UK will take a pounding

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British Pound Under Pressure

Nov. 17th 2008

The British Pound has already fallen 25% against the Dollar, since the credit crisis kicked off earlier this year. On a technical basis, therefore, it would seem that the Pound is due for a rally. From the standpoint of economic fundamentals however, the picture is quite bleak. While the Bank of England’s recent 150 basis point interest rate cut could help restore the UK economy to solid footing, it sent a massive shock to investors. UK interest rates now stand at a 50-year low, and futures prices suggest that the benchmark rate will fall another 1% in the next 12 months. In addition, the Bank of England has not ruled out ruling interest rates all the way to zero. As unlikely as this scenario may be, investors are now fully aware of the scope of Britain’s economic troubles. The next couple weeks could be make-or-break for the Pound, as a series of economic data releases, as well as the minutes from the latest BOE meeting, will help investors craft a more accurate forecast. Daily FX reports:

Housing, industrial trends, consumer spending and public borrowing readings…provide additional confirmation that this evolving recession will be far worse than the slump of 1992.

Read More: British Pound Could Forge New Lows As Rate And Growth Outlook Fail

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UK Rate Cut Backfires

Nov. 12th 2008

Last week, the Bank of England acquieced to the seriousness of the credit crisis by cutting its benchmark interest rate by 150 basis points- the largest margin in nearly two decades. While the move was intended to restore confidence in the UK economy and its financial markets, the opposite result obtained. In other words, investors interpreted the rate cut as an indication that the UK economic situation is even more precarious than was initially feared. In fact, this bearish sentiment is born out by economic data, which shows falling home prices and rising unemployment. Since peaking against the Dollar late last year, the British Pound has since declined 25%.

Read More: Sentiment still volatile despite rate cuts

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Hedge Funds Crush British Pound

Nov. 3rd 2008

The British Pound is perhaps one of the worst victims of the credit crunch, having fallen 25% against the USD in the year-to-date. According to analysts, hedge funds deserve much of the blame. Apparently, most hedge funds, including those that are based in the UK, denominate their portfolios in terms of Dollars. As a result of the exodus away from emerging markets, such funds have found themselves awash in cash, which they have promptly converted into Dollars. The reasoning behind this investment strategy is twofold: first, as the incredible strength of the Dollar has illustrated, the prevailing wisdom among investors is that the US is currently the least risky place to invest. Second, the interest rate gap between the US and the rest of the world looks set to narrow, which means the yields on US security will become relatively attractive. The Telegraph reports:

Worldwide interest rate forecasts are being revised downward, which has increased interest in the US where rates have already been slashed.

Read More: Sterling caught up in ‘currency market tsunami’

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Bad News for the UK, EU

Sep. 11th 2008

The bad news is piling up in the US: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in such dire shape that they will require the assistance of the US government merely to stay afloat. Meanwhile, Lehman Brothers, a large investment bank, is quickly crumbling a la Bear Stearns and could require a similar bailout. Fortunately for the US, the news across the Atlantic is just as bad, and getting worse. The median estimate for Eurozone GDP growth has been revised downward to an anemic 1.4% in 2008 and 1.2% in 2009. Analysts are speculating that the ECB will finally have to lower rates in order to prime the EU economy, and perhaps the Bank of UK will have to lower rates for a second time. It looks like this Dollar rally still has legs. Reuters reports:

Euro zone economic uncertainty was "particularly high," the European Central Bank president, Jean-Claude Trichet, said after the ECB left its interest rates at 4.25 percent on Thursday.

Read More: Dollar soars to highest level this year vs euro

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UK Housing Crisis Could Affect Pound

Jul. 11th 2008

When one hears the phrase "housing crisis" uttered, the US immediately comes to mind. Not without reason, of course, since the US housing market is the largest in the world, and the scope of any US housing crisis is sure to dwarf a comparable crisis in any other country, in absolute terms. At the same time, let’s not forget that prices in the UK, for example, began to decline earlier than in the US. In addition, as one columnist points out, the impact of the UK housing crisis may be relatively greater on the UK economy. While some of the statistics he quotes are dubious, housing and consumer debt (on a per capita basis)  may in fact be larger in the UK than in the US. As a result, the ongoing correction in housing prices would be expected to punish the UK more than the US. The story could be the same for the Pound, vis-a-vis the US Dollar. Money & Markets reports:

[One analyst] is…a long-term bear on the British pound and believes any rallies in the currency represent an opportunity to enter short at a better price. Selling the pound against the dollar with a 10-12 month time frame may present one of the best opportunities in the currency markets today.

Read More: UK Housing Bust Spells Trouble for Pound

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UK: No rate Cuts for 2 Years

May. 15th 2008

The US Federal Reserve Bank is known for ambiguity and vagueness. The Bank of England, it appears, is not trying to emulate this approach. The Bank put an end to speculation about its near-term monetary policy by announcing that it does not plan to cut interest rates for at least two years. Apparently, inflation has breached the Bank’s 2% target, and its internal models are forecasting that it won’t be until 2010 that price inflation returns to a more palatable rate. This is bad news for the British economy, which is in the throes of an economic downturn precipitated by the housing crisis and would surely benefit from a loosening of monetary policy. By extension, the British Pound should also suffer a "correction," as a combination of inflation and lack of suitable investment opportunities will send investors rushing for the exits. The Financial Times reports:

Mr King contrasted his position – and its focus on controlling inflation – with that of Ben Bernanke of the US Federal Reserve. “We did not fall prey to the sirens to cut interest rates further as some other central banks have done,’’ he said.

Read More: No interest rate cut for two years, Bank warns

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Forwards Gain Retail Appeal

Apr. 29th 2008

The anecdotal evidence for surging retail interest in forex is cropping up everywhere. Moreover, investors are no longer even limiting themselves to the spot market, utilizing derivatives to speculate on future exchange rates. In the UK, for example, 10% of investors intending to purchase real estate in the EU are utilizing forward agreements to hedge their exposure to the Euro, which has risen 10% against the Pound since the beginning of 2008. Evidently, prospective home buyers are hoping that the Euro returns to 2007 levels, which would significantly lower the cost of buying property there. However, if the Euro continues to appreciate, such investors could end up losing more than they bargained for. Homes Worldwide reports:

Even the movement in the markets over a couple of days can make the difference between owning a property and no longer being able to afford it.

Read More: Brits Gambling On Volatile Currency Markets

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Central Banks in the News

Jan. 14th 2008

As we wrote last week, the direction of the Dollar may be influenced more by external economic events rather than by internal activity.  Accordingly, it would behoove forex traders to direct their attention away from the Fed and towards the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, both of which face important monetary policy decisions later in the month. With regard to the Bank of England, futures markets have priced in a 2/3 chance that rates will be cut by 25 basis points. In the case of the ECB, the markets are expecting rates to be maintained at current levels. However, analysts will be scrutinizing the Banks’ respective press releases and monitoring other developments in this area due to the implications for the US-EU-Britain interest rate differential.  Reuters reports:

Some analysts think that hawkish comments from Trichet will be brushed aside with weaker economic data leading to the prospect of falling euro zone rates later in the year.

Read More: Pound down, others flat before ECB, BoE decisions

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Interest Rate Story Hurts Pound

Dec. 25th 2007

The British Pound has been reeling since the Bank of England cut rates at the beginning of this month, from 5.75% to 5.50%.  Last week, the minutes for the meeting were released.  They revealed that that members of the Bank were growing increasingly nervous about the state of the British economy and are worrying particularly about how fallout from the credit crunch will impact growth.  British interest rates are still among the highest in the industrialized world, behind only Australia and New Zealand.  Thus, it seems investors are punishing the Pound indirectly for the rate cuts, because of fears concerning the near-term prognosis for the British economy.  At the same time, the minutes indicated that members of the Bank were adamant about not lowering rates further, so some of the concerns may be overblown.

Read More:  Pound weakens after BoE minutes show concerns for growth

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ECB to Hold Rates

Nov. 8th 2007

The European Central Bank (ECB) will likely maintain its benchmark interest rate at 4.00% at its meeting his week.  The Bank of England is also expected to hold its lending rate in place, at 5.75%.  While these two moves should be seen by Dollar bulls as acts of clemency, they are more akin to a stay of execution than to a commutation of its death sentence.  The reasoning is that it is inevitable that the US-EU interest rate difference will be bridged over the next few months, as the Fed continues to lower rates while the ECB is in the process of hiking them.  The only question is when.  Accordingly, analysts will be paying close attention to the language employed by the heads of the various Central Banks at their next meetings to get a sense of timing.

Read More: Dollar hovers above lows

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UK Pound Nears Plateau

Oct. 12th 2007

The UK Pound has been on a tear recently, both against the USD and more surprisingly, against the Euro.  The currency has been given a boost by the
Bank of England’s reluctance to cut its benchmark interest rate, which at 5.75%, remains the highest among the world’s major currencies.  However, many economists feel the case for a rate cut is growing stronger every month, whether or not the Bank of England is willing to acknowledge it.  Inflation is only moderately high, while the fall in housing prices-exacerbated by a prolonged period of tight money-threatens to drag down the entire economy.  The markets are still pricing in a rate cut by year-end, which would surely drag down the Pound should it obtain.  Dow Jones Newswires reports:

“We strongly suspect that market pessimism in this respect will continue to grow, in reverse proportions to its expectations of a further hike in U.K. interest rates,” said…a senior currency strategist.

Read More: Sterling’s Strength Can’t Last Much Longer

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Bank of UK to lower rates

Sep. 27th 2007

The Central Bank of the UK will likely lower interest rates at its next meeting, following the lead of the Fed. The most recent British economic data indicated that inflation has fallen to its lowest level in over a year.  Moreover, UK (and European for that matter) monetary policy prioritizes price stability over employment, by unofficially targeting an inflation benchmark.  Thus, without regard to economic growth, the Bank of UK will adjust interest rates accordingly.  While the Pound-Dollar exchange rate is less sensitive to relative interest rates, the Pound has already fallen against the Euro, since the two countries compete over foreign capital.  Bloomberg News reports:

"The move down is probably going to continue. Sterling will remain under pressure. If any major central bank is going to emulate the Fed and cut rates, it’s going to be the BOE.” 

Read More: U.K. Pound Falls for Third Week Against Euro on Rate Cut Views

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Promising Survey Strengthens Pound

Aug. 23rd 2007

Although the British pound suffered earlier in the week from a large Bank of England loan, the currency has been lifted due to a survey taken by UK manufacturers. The results of the survey, which inquired about their order books, showed that manufacturers were more successful this month than they’ve been in over a decade. Analysts did not expect such a promising report, as it proved that the UK is handling global credit problems better than most countries. According to Forbes:

The Confederation of British Industry revealed that a balance of +9 pct of firms polled reported that their order books were above normal in August – the highest level for more than 12 years.

Read more: Pound boosted by buoyant UK manufacturing survey

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Posted by Amy Cottrell | in British Pound | No Comments »

Pound Weakened After Large BoE Loan

Aug. 21st 2007

Although it is not known whether the Bank of England loaned £314 million to one borrower or many yesterday, the effects were still the same. A one-day loan of such magnitude weakened the domestic currency, if only temporarily. As experts point out, this isn’t entirely unusual and the economy has survived much larger Bank of England loans. Reports Forbes:

Significantly more than 314 mln stg this [sic] has been borrowed in one day in the recent past — for example nearly 4 bln stg on June 29 and 2 bln on July 2, he [George Buckley] added.

Read more: Pounds weakens as BoE confirms 314 mln stg use of its credit facility

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Bank of England Raises Rates

Jul. 5th 2007

The Bank of England raised interest rates for the second time in as many months yesterday, to 5.75%. As a result, the UK has widened its lead over the US as the country with the highest interest rates in the industrialized world, after New Zealand. Moreover,  the UK is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to the US as a target for risk-averse investors. The British Pound is hovering around a record high against the USD, which can probably expect to suffer prolonged decline against the world’s majors if it falls behind in attracting risk-free foreign capital. The Financial Times reports:

“The statement accompanying the rate hike gives few firm clues as to future interest rate movements, with the Bank of England…concluding that the risks to the inflation outlook are still tilted to the upside.”

Read More: BoE rate decision boosts pound

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Bank of England Mulls Rate Hike

Jun. 17th 2007

Since the beginning of 2007, the Bank of England has raised Britain’s benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points, to 5.50%.  While the Bank voted earlier this month to maintain rates at current levels, many analysts are speculating that it will resume hiking rates again in July.  A recent spate of economic data has supported the notion that Britain’s economy is on stable ground.  As a result, the specter of inflation is once again looming, and the Bank, which has a reputation for monetary hawkishness, will be quick to act if inflation stays above the Bank’s comfort level.  While the rate hike could certainly put a damper on Britain’s economy, it is likely to feed continued short-term interest in the Pound, is a viable risk-free alternative to the USD.

Read More: King comments send sterling climbing

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Pound Surges to 15-Year High

Apr. 17th 2007

Since 1992, two macroeconomic events had not occurred in Britain: price inflation has no exceeded 3% annually and the British Pound has not surpassed the $2 barrier.  Both events were realized today, however, as an early-morning release of economic data indicated inflation in Britain was hovering around 3.1% and the British Pound quickly rose above 2 USD/Pound.  Interest rate futures also witnessed an immediate correction, to the extent that the markets are now pricing in a British benchmark interest rate of 5.75% 6 months from now, .5% above the current rate.  Meanwhile, US inflation statistics were dovish, suggesting the gap between British and US interest rates is set to widen, which should propel the Pound further upwards.  The Financial Times reports:

There is little that is inevitable about currencies moving in line with expected interest rates and nothing in long-term trends that allows people to predict currency movements in connection with inflation and other variables. But on Tuesday, the currencies moved exactly as if they were linked to the inflation figures by an umbilical cord.

Read More: Pound rises on prices and rates fears

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UK may raise rates in March

Feb. 27th 2007

Today saw the release of the ‘minutes’ from last month’s meeting of the UK Central Reserve Bank, revealing that members of the Bank’s monetary policy committee voted 7-2 to hold rates at their current levels. That there were two dissenting votes is confirmation to some economists that the Bank is planning to hike rates again in the near-term, perhaps as soon as March. British short-term interest rates, at 5.25% are already on par with American rates, and another rate hike would further lessen the appeal of risk-averse investment in America. Investors will be eying inflation data closely over the coming weeks, which could provide the impetus for a rate hike at the next meeting.

Read More: MPC voted 7-2 to hold rates

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Rate hike buoys British Pound

Jan. 11th 2007

The British Pound received a boost today when the Central Bank of England raised interest rates to 5.25%, which represents parity with American interest rates. The move shocked investors and traders who expected the Bank to leave rates unchanged. Risk-averse investors are now fully incentivized to move funds to Britain since interest rate levels there are now among the most competitive in the industrialized world. Further, as the British economy still hasn’t peaked, it is possible that the Bank of England will raise rates further. Meanwhile, investors are already speculating as to when the Federal Reserve Bank will begin loosening its monetary policy, at which point it will officially be more attractive to invest in Britain. Either way, it seems the USD is in for a long and bumpy ride. The Financial Times reports:

The move sparked speculation that data next Tuesday could show December UK consumer price index inflation rising above November’s 2.7 per cent reading, since the committee would have had those figures in their possession.

Read More: Surprise rate rise boosts sterling

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British Pound may harm economy

Dec. 5th 2006

As the British Pound hovers around a 14-year high against the USD, economists have begun to assess the implications. The most obvious consequence is that UK exports will become less attractive to buyers in the US, which is one of Britain’s primary export markets. Along the same lines, British people may begin funneling some of their consumption and investment dollars into the US to take advantage of comparatively lower prices in the US. Many analysts are predicting that this sudden inflow of British capital into the US will halt the decline of the USD against the Pound. The savviest investors have already begun to lock in the current exchange rate to hedge against a reversal. The Finance Daily reports:

“Forward contracts are a great way for people looking to move to the US to take advantage of the favourable exchange rate.” In essence, a ‘forward contract’ means that you can buy the currency now and pay for it later.

Read More: Mixed Benefits to Strong Pound Stateside

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Pound continues to surge

Nov. 24th 2006

The Pound is closing in on a two-year high against the USD en route to crossing the mythical barrier of 2 USD. Many traders and economists believe that it is only a matter of time before this threshold is breached- that it is a question of when and not if it will happen. This month, the Bank of England raised short-term interest rates to 5%, bridging the gap with US rates and eroding one of the last pillars that is propping up the USD. Once interest rates converge, many short term investors will likely shift funds out of US capital markets, and the USD will adjust to more closely reflect economic fundamentals.

Read More: Pound threatening $2 mark

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UK Central Bank Raises Rates

Nov. 9th 2006

The Pound has been idling near a multi-year high against the USD for several months now, but it can’t seem to break through the psychological resistance of $1.90. Against that backdrop, the Central Bank of the UK raised interest rates this week by 25 basis points, to 5%. This leaves UK rates potentially one rate hike away from parity with American rates, which seem more likely to be lowered than raised, given current circumstances. Narrowing interest rate differentials may remove the last barrier that has stood in the way of a broad-based USD decline. Perhaps, risk-averse investors will begin shifting some of their capital out of the US, and into UK and Europe, which is also in the midst of raising rates. The Financial Times reports:

The statement [of the UK Central Bank] did not give any clear signals as to the future path of UK interest rates and as such came as a disappointment to sterling bulls given the high probability that was attached to a follow-up rate rise in the first quarter of 2007.

Read More: BoE disappoints sterling bulls

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Pound and Euro move in lockstep

Oct. 23rd 2006

In recent years, the British Pound and the Euro have begun to converge in value, so much so that both currencies have traded within 5% of each other for almost a year now. There are a couple of explanations for this trend. First, the relationship between the Pound and the Euro are largely symbolic. Perhaps, investors are grouping the two currencies together because of some perceived economic and/or political similarities. Second, it seems that all of the currencies that are supported by any semblance of sound economic fundamentals have risen against the USD, so it is possible that the Pound-Euro convergence is simply the result of both currencies simultaneously appreciating against the USD. Monetary policy and economic cycles are not aligned in Europe and Britain, so it doesn’t seem this link has any strong fundamental basis. Whatever the reason, in all aspects except for in name, the Pound has officially been absorbed into the Euro. The Financial Times reports:

From the euro’s launch in January 1999 until 2003, the pound initially traded in a wide 21.1 per cent range against the euro. Since then, volatility has been significantly reduced with the trading range falling to 8.6 per cent in 2004 and 7.1 in 2005.

Read More: Sterling in accord with the euro

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UK inflation data buoys Pound

Oct. 17th 2006

Traders bullish on the British Pound have been waiting anxiously for economic data to be released that would provide an impetus for the Central Bank of Britain to raise interest rates. On Tuesday, they got their wish, as a flurry of data revealed British price levels are slowly creeping up. Despite sagging energy prices, core inflation is running at an annualized rate of 2.4%, and retail sales are up nearly 4% in 2006. The new consensus is for the UK Bank to raise interest rates by 25 basis points at its next meeting, which is scheduled for November. The Financial Times reports:

By mid-afternoon in New York, the pound was 0.5 per cent higher at a one-week high of $1.8700 against the dollar and up 0.4 per cent to £0.6707 against the euro.

Read More: Inflation Figures Boost Sterling

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Interest rates rise in Europe

Aug. 3rd 2006

The two most important Central Banks in Europe independently raised interest rates today. The European Central Bank (ECB) was first to announce a rate hike, in a move that was widely predicted by investors. The Central Bank of UK, however, caught most investors completely off guard when it announced a rate hike of its own. It appears to be a coincidence that both banks raised rates on the same day, as the economic policies of the UK and of Europe are not entirely related. The news made USD bulls nervous on two fronts: first, the narrowing of interest rate differentials means it is more attractive to move capital to Europe. Second, and less obvious, is the implication that growth is picking up in Europe, at the very moment it is slowing down in the US. The Financial Times reports:

Jean-Claude Trichet, ECB president… said that if the eurozone economy performed as the bank expected, “a progressive withdrawal of monetary accommodation will be warranted”.

Read More: ECB and UK join drive to raise rates

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ECB signals further rate hikes

Dec. 23rd 2005

Yesterday, I reported that Central Banks are becoming more transparent in matters of monetary policy. As if on cue, today the European Central Bank and Bank of England offered separate insight into the directions of their respective interest rates. The ECB hinted that it would likely raise interest rates twice in the next year from the current level of 2.25%, while the Bank of England indicated that a cut in its interest rates would take place in March. The corresponding changes in interest rate differentials should benefit the Euro and hurt the British Pound. Reuters reports:

But some analysts see U.S. rate rises stopping there. The latest report about the ECB is seen as likely to boost the euro. “It’s a reminder that not only the Fed but also the ECB is raising interest rates,” said one currency strategist.

Read More: Euro jumps briefly on rate speculation, pound down

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UK signals possibility of rate cut

Dec. 19th 2005

The US Federal Reserve Bank is currently in the process of raising interest rates. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan are preparing to begin implementing tighter monetary policies at unknown dates in the short term. The Bank of England, however, is moving in the opposite direction, having recently announced that it may cut rates in the first half of 2006. The Bank of England is caught in the unenviable position of trying to simultaneously manage a housing bubble, rising inflation, and slowing growth. Previously, Britain’s Central Bank had prioritized housing and price stability. This latest announcement, however, represents a change in tack. As investors price in the possibility of multiple rate hikes, the UK Sterling should add to its 6% decline against the USD so far this year. Bloomberg News reports:

“The market was always complacent about the performance of the U.K. economy,” said a currency strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland. “Comments…play into the hands of a bad performance for sterling against the dollar next year.”

Read More: Pound Drops, U.K. Bonds Rise as Bean Hints First-Half Rate Cut

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British economy is lackluster

Dec. 9th 2005

In a recent report, Britain’s Central Bank warned that the nation’s economy would likely grow at a pace of 1.75% in 2005, which would represent the worst year of growth in over a decade. This latest forecast is significantly from earlier forecasts of 3-3.5%, that the Central Bank had released earlier this year. According to experts, rising energy prices are responsible. Others pin the blame squarely on the slowing real estate market, which has spurred a sharp decline in the consumption component of GDP. Ironically, other G7 countries, including Germany and Japan, are finally showing signs of growth. Britain’s economy, however, seems headed in the opposite direction. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Calling 2005 “the toughest and most challenging” of his eight years as treasury chief, Gordon Brown blamed “a virtual doubling of global oil and commodity prices.”

Read More: British Growth, at 1.75%, Is Slowest Since 1992

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Will UK continue to lower rates?

Aug. 12th 2005

Last week, the UK Central Bank voted to lower interest rates for the first time in two years, to 4.5%. Economists and analysts are already mooting the possibility of another decline before year-end, in anticipation of lower-than-expected UK economic growth. Several UK policy makers, however, are reluctant to lower rates any further, lest they incite another housing bubble. Rising home prices have already fuelled excessive borrowing and a proportionate rise in consumer spending. Officials, however, are worried that these spending levels have reached dangerous levels, rising twice as fast as wage growth statistics would seem to imply. The upshot is a very low likelihood of continued rate cuts. The Economist reports:

It is unlikely that Britons are in for a series of interest-rate cuts. The Bank of England knows that no good will come of re-inflating the housing bubble, which would only result in worse pain down the road, as more consumers fall into the trap of too much debt.

Read More:

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UK lowers interest rates

Aug. 9th 2005

Britain recently became the first developed country in two years to lower interest rates, guiding its repo rate downward to 4.5%. However, representatives from the Central Bank effectively dismissed speculation that other rate cuts would follow, calling the move “economic fine-tuning.” They will continue to target inflation, which is likely to resurface once Britain’s economy resumes its expansion. Many analysts believe policy-makers in other developed regions will soon follow suit, ushering in a period of tight monetary policy. Those analysts may be forced to wait, however. The Financial Times reports:

The European Central Bank maintained its main interest rate at 2 per cent. Recently, evidence from business surveys appeared to back its view that conditions in the eurozone were improving.

Read More: Bank of England makes first rate cut in two years

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British rate cuts appear ‘imminent’

Jul. 20th 2005

The release of the minutes of last month’s meeting of Britain’s Central Bank revealed a growing minority of members in favor of lowering interest rates.  The official vote was 5-4 in favor of maintaining interest rates at current levels. However, few economists and pundits had reason to believe the vote would be so close. While many traders had already begun to price lower interest rates into bonds prior to last month’s meeting, it seems a rate cut at the next meeting is a near certainty. Recent economic data not only suggests the economy is slowing down, but also that inflation is likely to be lower than expected. As a result, both the members of the Central Bank targeting inflation indices as well as those targeting general economic performance, would seem to have a solid basis for lowering rates. The Financial Times reports:

Sterling had already been on the ropes prior to the MPC announcement…Against this backdrop sterling fell to a 19-month low in trade-weighted terms.

Read More: Sterling falls as BoE votes 5-4 against rate cut

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British Central Bank mulls rate cuts

Jul. 12th 2005

At its last meeting, Britain’s Central Bank voted to leave the national interest rate unchanged at  4.75%. With new data pouring in every day suggesting Britain’s economy is in trouble, the Bank’s leaders may soon rethink their stance on interest rates. Consumer spending, considered by many British economists to be the most important growth driver, is declining. The drop in savings rates and stagnation of home prices indicates consumers have already spent all that can be expected. Moreover, last week’s terrorist attacks will likely cause consumer confidence to fall further, mitigating the possibility of a fast recovery. Economic growth is now projected at 2.1% for 2005, down from 2.75% in 2004. When the Central Bank meets next month, the upshot will most certainly be lower interest rates. Traders and investors concur, and have priced two rate cuts into British debt futures, implying a rate of 4.25% at the year’s end. Rate cuts or not, the British Pound will most likely continue to slide. The Economist reports:

The strong chance of feeble growth in the second quarter—the National Institute of Economic and Social Research is forecasting a rise in GDP of only 0.3%—means that a cut in August is on the cards. In a poll of economists on July 5th by Reuters, 26 out of 43 said that rates would fall next month.

Read More: They’re coming down soon

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British Pound falls after terrorist attacks

Jul. 7th 2005

Forex traders and investors responded to the terrorist attacks which rocked London today by sending the British Pound to near 18-month lows against the USD.  As soon as the news reached the trading floors of forex dealers, panic set in, and the Pound quickly lost 1% of its value, relative to the USD. Experts agree both the attack-and the ensuing panic in the markets-could have been far worse.  One trader spoke of a “risk premium” which has been built into the currencies of nations that are potentially susceptible to terrorism, and probably prevented the Pound from depreciating further. Investors begin to understand the relatively minor implications of this latest attack, the Pound may well recover.  Forbes reports:

“The knee-jerk reaction was quite violent across all markets and the usual safe-haven trades were being put on,” said one currency strategist.  “The market is now backing off a little and questioning the magnitude of the implications.”

Read More: Sterling hits 18-month low against dollar

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British Pound may decline as growth flattens

Jul. 5th 2005

For the last few years, speculators in search of high interest rates have poured ‘hot money’ into Britain, causing the Pound to appreciate.  Now, it seems the Pound may be overvalued, rendering British exports uncompetitive.  A new spate of economic data indicates the British economy is slowing rapidly. In addition, a British housing bubble has begun to deflate, causing a subsequent decline in consumption. As Britain’s Central Bank prepares to lower interest rates, it seems investment will follow the same downward path as consumption. It may take a massive correction of Britain’s exchange rate to stem the decline of its economy. The Times Online reports:

With sterling’s valuation the focus of renewed attention, pressure on the pound will almost certainly intensify as currency markets home in on the increasingly apparent vulnerabilities of Britain’s economy.

Read More: Faltering growth knocks pound’s potency

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British GDP forecasts signal rate cuts

Jun. 30th 2005

According to fresh economic data, growth is slowing in Britain. Real GDP growth of 2.1% is now projected, compared to earlier forecasts in the 2.7% range. Declining real GDP forecasts accompanied the release of trade data and housing statistics, which also seemed to signal economic slowdown. The situation is not as dire as the data would suggest, as much of the forecasted decline can be attributed to higher-than-expected inflation. Nonetheless, a rate cut at the next Central Bank meeting looks acutely possible. In recent meetings, a minority of central bank governors have proposed rate cuts, which were ultimately vetoed.  While the GDP data would seem to necessitate a cut at the next meeting, nothing can be assumed. For instance, traders have currently priced in a mere .03% cut (which is impossible) into the price of British interest rate futures. The Financial Times reports:

"The market can slam a currency quickly if it believes that a fundamental shift in interest rate psychology could be afoot," said  senior currency trader. Said another trader, "The sterling looked “overvalued” against the main European crosses." [He] advised his clients to build a long euro/sterling position.

Read More: Sterling hits new 8-month low in GDP downgrade

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Britain, EU contemplate rate cuts

Jun. 23rd 2005

Britain recently became the latest European nation to entertain the possibility of interest rate cuts.  In its last meeting, held earlier this month, two of the Bank of England’s nine governors voted to cut the federal interest rate by 25 basis points to 4.25%.  There were other members who felt the interest rate cuts made economic sense, but should not be carried out because they would not be widely expected.  Additionally, the minutes from the most recent ECB meeting reveals it, too, is giving serious consideration to rate cuts.  Investors and traders, alike feel rate cuts by both central banks are becoming increasingly likely, reflected in changing bond prices.  The Financial Times reports:

On Wednesday the December Euribor future hit a record high, with the market pricing in about a 40 per cent chance of a cut in eurozone interest rates by the year’s end.  The euro has fallen 5 per cent on a trade-weighted basis since the start of the year, a sign of poor economic prospects, leading to market expectations of rate cuts.

Read More: Central banks flag rate cuts

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Britain’s Labor party re-elected

May. 10th 2005

Britain’s Labor Party has been re-elected, albeit by a narrow margin. While still a healthy 66 seats, the party’s majority in the House of Commons has been greatly diminished. This election has several important implications for Britain’s economy. First, the defeat of the conservative party mitigates the likelihood that there will be tax cuts and/or decreases in government spending over the next few years. More importantly, Britain may now become more integrated in the European Union. Tony Blair is notorious for his support of the EU. Accordingly, he will likely campaign for Britain to ratify the EU Constitution if such a referendum is posed to its people. However, this is conditional on France and the Netherlands first approving the Constitution, which is by no means guaranteed. If Britain were to ratify the EU Constitution, it could conceivably abandon the pound in favor of the Euro. However, Labor’s narrow majority over conservatives will likely preclude this from happening. Morgan Stanley reports:

All in all, the reduced Labour majority perhaps makes it more likely that continuity, rather than radical reform, will characterise economic policy over the next four years.

Read More: Closer than the last one

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Britain calls for regulation of currency markets

Mar. 24th 2005

A British regulatory agency recently announced its belief that global currency markets should be regulated. Equity and debt markets are already heavily regulated, so why not currency markets, in which $2 trillion+ worth of currencies are exchanged every day. The regulatory agency’s main suggestion was to separate analysts and traders, similar to what has been done in banks’ debt and equity departments. There is a clear conflict of interest, or ability to manipulate currency markets, when analysts and traders collude. If a bank’s analysts advise the bank’s clients on the direction it believes a particular currency to be headed, that bank’s traders could profit from the information. The analogy to equity markets is self-evident. The problem is one of jurisdiction and boundaries. Capital markets are regulated by an agency within the nation that the capital is invested in. Currencies, on the other hand, are often traded by parties outside of the currency’s home country. reports:

THE Forex market’s argument is that practitioner regulation, or self-regulation, is a better tool in fighting tricks of the trade and loophole hunting, rather than forced compliance with a one-size-fits-all rule.

Read More: Banking on a regulated market for currencies

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