United Kingdom: Pound set to continue rollercoaster ride
November 18, 2016
The British pound (GBP) has shown high volatility lately amid political turmoil regarding Brexit and debate over when to initiate formal negotiations with the European Union. In the last month, the currency has hovered around USD 1.24 per GBP (EUR 1.14 per GBP), over 15% weaker than on the day of the referendum when it traded at 1.49 against the greenback (EUR 1.31 per GBP). The currency has been under pressure since Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that the UK would trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before March of next year. The possibility that the government is heading for a “hard” Brexit—no tariff-free access to the European market and restrictions on labor movement—is raising concerns among investors.
In November, the pound has had some short-lived rallies. On 3 November, the currency surged more than 1.0% and traded at USD 1.24 per GBP (EUR 1.12 per GBP) following the verdict of the High Court that the UK government needs parliamentary approval to officially start the country’s exit from the Union. The majority of Members of Parliament do not support Brexit, and the decision of the High Court could delay Brexit or “soften” the exit. Moreover, the pound benefited from the Bank of England’s decision on the same day to keep rates unchanged on the back of the better-than-expected performance of the economy after the referendum vote.
Following the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S presidential elections, the pound surged 1.2% on 10 November and traded at 1.26 against the greenback (EUR 1.15 per GBP) since market concern shifted from the pound to the euro on fears of an increasing wave of populism across Europe. Looking forward, analysts expect further volatility of the sterling as the government will appeal the verdict to the UK’s Supreme Court on 5 December. The pound will experience more pressure should that decision rule in favor of the government.
Author: Dirina Mançellari, Senior Economist