Friday, 16 June 2017

Sterling surges after BoE vote swing, Fed hopes lift dollar

Sterling jumped more than a cent on Thursday on signs of a shift in the Bank of England's stance on keeping interest rates at record lows, before giving up its gains on nagging investor caution over the outlook for the UK economy.

Two more policymakers at the Bank of England (BoE) joined Kristin Forbes in calling for a reversal to the BoE's interest rate cut last August, sending the pound as high as $1.2795 in the minutes following its decision to leave rates unchanged.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected only Forbes - whose term on the BoE rate setting committee expires at the end of the month - to back higher rates, especially given a slowdown in growth in the first three months of 2017.

The risks to that view - and to sterling - were underlined by another lower-than-expected batch of retail sales data.  By 1225 GMT, the pound had eased back to $1.2741, down 0.1 percent on the day.

"I still think there is a case for weaker (UK) growth so I don't really agree with their arguments in the minutes this time," SEB currency strategist Richard Falkenhall said, adding that he saw no change to BoE policy this year or next.

"What will be important (for sterling going forward) is really the tone we will have in the first negotiations which will begin next week between the UK and the EU."

The pound has hovered near the $1.27 mark after a nearly 3 percent fall in the wake of Britain's election last week, which produced no clear majority for any party.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative party are still in talks with another party from Northern Ireland to form a government, with just days remaining before the planned start date of talks on Britain's exit from the European Union.

The dollar inched higher against a basket of peers, after the Federal Reserve's policy meeting kept up expectations of another interest rate hike this year.

As widely expected, the Fed raised interest rates a quarter percentage point to a target range of 1.0-1.25 percent on Wednesday but it also gave its first clear outline on its plan to reduce its $4.2-trillion bond portfolio.

That undid all of the damage done to the greenback in Asian trading and pushed it higher in morning European trade.

The dollar was up 0.6 percent against the euro at $1.1160 and 0.8 percent higher at 110.340 yen.

The index that measures its broader strength was up half a percent at 97.399.

A Reuters poll of 21 of the 23 primary dealers that do business directly with the Fed showed 14 of them now believed it would announce the start of its balance sheet normalisation at its Sept. 19-20 policy meeting. The rest of them said it would make such a move at its Dec. 12-13 meeting.

"Long term Fed expectations remain very much supported - that is the main reason why the dollar is remaining supported for now," Credit Agricole currency strategist Manuel Oliveri said.

Reference: Ritvik Carvalho 

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