Instant View: Britain’s pound crumbles to record lows in firesale of UK assets

Instant View: Britain’s pound crumbles to record lows in firesale of UK assets
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s pound plunged to record lows on Monday and bonds were slammed for a second day, as investors punished UK assets after the government’s mini-budget announcement last week.

On Friday, finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng announced he was scrapping the country’s top rate of income tax and cancelled a planned rise in corporate taxes – all on top of a hugely expensive plan to subsidise energy bills for households and businesses.

British government bond yields ripped higher in response, rising by the most in a single day in decades on Friday, as investors ditched gilts, while London-listed blue chips hit their lowest since early March.

Kwarteng on Sunday dismissed the freefall in the pound, saying his strategy was to focus more on longer-term growth and not short-term market reaction.

In Asian trading on Monday, the pound fell by as much as 5% against the dollar at one point to a low of $1.0327, its weakest at least since the introduction of decimalisation in the early 1970s.

Pound slumps and UK borrowing costs surge https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/jnpweqgjbpw/Pasted%20image%201664186514397.png

MARKET REACTION:

FOREX: Against the dollar, sterling was last down 1.4% at $1.07045, while against the euro, the pound was down 0.8% at 89.95 pence.

STOCKS: The fell 0.7%, under pressure from steep losses in shares of homebuilders.

BONDS: Two-year gilt yields were last up 54 basis points at 4.53%, while 10-year yields rose 30 basis points to 4.13%

COMMENTS:

MARK MCCORMICK, GLOBAL HEAD OF CURRENCY STRATEGY, TORONTO DOMINION BANK, TORONTO:

“The crux of the issue is that the macro policy mix will continue to push real yields lower in the face of a rising current account deficit. Sterling has long relied on the kindness of strangers to backstop the current account deficit, but the price action illustrates the market’s rejection of the evolving macroeconomic policy mix.”

MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR, ALLIANZ:

“There is only two choices for the country, one is (Kwarteng) moderates his package. This is not about the structural reforms enhancing growth and productivity, the markets will like that, nor is about energy stabilisation, this about the extra tax cuts that were introduced and that should surprise the markets on Friday.

“So choice number one is that he recalibrates his package, politically difficult but economically needed. Choice number two is he leaves it to the Bank of England and in that case the Bank of England would have to hike in an emergency meeting because they don’t meet again until November. But that in itself goes against him. Again the image of driving a car with the chancellor foot on the accelerator and the governor foot on the brake. That is not a good way to drive the UK economy.”

YOU-NA PARK-HEGER, CURRENCY STRATEGIST, COMMERZBANK, FRANKFURT:

“Last week’s minutes of the Bank of England’s meeting made it quite clear that in its fight against inflation the BoE is putting some hope in fiscal policies. Measures such as the energy price cap, which will come into effect in October, could weaken inflation pressure and thus ease pressure on the BoE to fight inflation in a more determined manner.

“However, the sterling moves recorded on Friday and especially this morning illustrate that this is not so easy. The presentation of the mini-budget was received quite badly by the markets – sterling literally collapsed. The significant tax cuts announced by the Treasury Secretary cause concerns for the currency markets because of rising government debt.”

SAMY CHAAR CHIEF ECONOMIST, LOMBARD ODIER, GENEVA:

“This doesn’t feel like a currency crisis, where the decline in a currency worsens the situation. Sterling needs to decline considering the deficits and the uncertainty around what the Bank of England will do, but at some point, it will fall to a level where the attractive return prospects it creates improves the prospects of economic and financial flows.”

MICHAEL EVERY, STRATEGIST, RABOBANK SINGAPORE

“The British have decided that going back to the 1980s on steroids is the best way to go, and clearly the market is just saying: ‘That’s not going to work,’ on steroids.

“The market is now treating the UK as if it’s an emerging market. And they’re not wrong in terms of the policy response and the naivety of thinking that boosting demand rather than supply is how you deal with a supply-side shock.”

SHAFALI SACHDEV, HEAD OF FIXED INCOME AND COMMODITIES, ASIA, BNP PARIBAS WEALTH MANAGEMENT, SINGAPORE

“It’s quite interesting that you see a G10 currency weakening into a hike expectation. That makes you realise that the market is not very confident about the ability of the UK government to be able to fund their fiscal plans.

“The math of it would imply that something needs to give, whether it’s terms of higher rates, or a weaker pound. And I guess the market is taking a very calculated bet that that is going to be the case.”

PAUL MACKEL, GLOBAL HEAD OF FX RESEARCH, HSBC, HONG KONG

“The movements over the last couple of trading days are quite fierce.

“Normally you would think about a very strong fiscal package raising interest rate expectations should be positive for a currency, but this time around we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing the exact opposite.

“What has happened in the last 48 hours or so, it’s a strong reminder about how suddenly the drivers for exchange rates can change.”

KIT JUCKES, HEAD OF CUFRRENCY STRATEGY, SOCIETE GENERALE, LONDON

“Markets have a tendency to overshoot and I wouldn’t overinterpret the fall this morning.

“But there are two points. One is the loss of confidence in UK fiscal policy and that won’t help sterling. The second is that the mini-budget has allowed sterling to be the short of choice against the dollar.”

LEE HARDMAN, CURRENCY ANALYST, MUFG, LONDON

“The outsized market reaction to the UK government’s fiscal stimulus plans send a clear signal that market participants have lost confidence in the appropriateness of domestic policy settings in the UK.”

PAUL DALES, CHIEF UK ECONOMIST, CAPITAL ECONOMICS, LONDON

“The further fall in the pound in early trading mean that we’ve now reached the point where the Bank of England needs to step in in order to regain the initiative. There are a couple of ways it could do this.”

“First, Governor Bailey could come out this morning emphasising the Bank’s commitment to the 2% inflation target and providing a clear signal that it intends to raise interest rates aggressively at the next policy meeting in early November.”

“If this were coordinated with a message from the government that it is committed to long-term fiscal discipline and will bring forward plans to spell out how it intends to keep the public debt position stable following last week’s fiscal splurge, then it could relieve some downward pressure on the pound.”


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Author: Reuters

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