Pound slips below $1.25 on disappointing growth data

By Maiya Keidan

LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling fell below $1.25 on Tuesday for the first time in a week and reached a 14-day low against the euro after data showed Britain’s economy was recovering more slowly than forecast.

Gross domestic product rose by 1.8% in May after falling by a record 20.8% in April, the Office for National Statistics said, well below forecasts in a Reuters poll.

“You saw sterling moving lower almost immediately after the announcement and it was a big disappointment and I think that it’s also the realization that maybe the V-shaped recovery doesn’t apply to the UK to the same extent,” said Morten Lund, an analyst at Nordea.

Adding to fears was a warning from authorities that another, more deadly COVID-19 wave could kill up to 120,000 Britons over the winter.

The pound touched a low of $1.2485, down 0.5% on the day. It slipped 0.7% to the euro at 91.03 pence.

Broad dollar weakness has allowed sterling to gain around 0.7% versus the greenback this month but against the euro it has lost 0.5% since the start of July.

Consumer data also indicated a tentative recovery. The British Retail Consortium said retail sales values rose by 3.4% in annual terms in June, and Barclaycard said overall consumer spending fell 14.5% in annual terms in June, the smallest decline since lockdown began.

Money markets price in the Bank of England’s cutting rates below 0% only next March. But government two-year bond yields plumbed a record low around minus 0.16% and 10-year yields slipped 2.5 basis points to 0.14%.

FTSE mid-cap shares, which tend to be mostly domestically oriented, fell 1.6% versus a 0.6% decline for the exporter-laden FTSE100.

Investors are also waiting for more news on Britain’s negotiations with the European Union on concluding a trade deal for the post-Brexit period. Britain left the bloc on Jan. 31, with a one-year transition period to iron out a future relationship.

“My feeling is the market is not fully pricing in the likelihood of a hard Brexit,” said Colin Asher at Mizuho.

“There has been very little progress on negotiations and even if there is a deal, there’s not much time to put a lot in it.”

(Reporting by Maiya Keidan, editing by Larry King and Ed Osmond)

Dollar down vs. sterling, euro on bets Britain votes ‘Remain’

British Pound Sterling banknotes

By Dion Rabouin

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sterling hit its highest level of the year against the dollar on Thursday after opinion polls in recent days favored Britain staying in the European Union and bookmakers’ odds indicated a further shift toward the “Remain” camp.

The British pound and the euro were off their highs in late trading, but held onto gains against the greenback and Japanese yen as voters in the United Kingdom took to the polls to decide whether they would exit the EU.

An Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as an online Populus poll, showed over 50 percent support for staying in the EU.

Earlier polls by ComRes and by YouGov also showed a last-minute rise in support for remaining.

In addition to the murder of pro-EU British lawmaker Jo Cox last week, the increasing likelihood of a “Remain” vote was largely the result of campaigns by British and international politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who lobbied Britons to stay, said Juan Perez, currency strategist at Tempus Inc in Washington.

“Even though 9-10 percent of those surveyed are undecided and that’s where things are hanging in the balance, it seems like there is a majority for remain,” Perez said.

Sterling <GBP=> rose to $1.4946, its highest against the dollar since Dec. 31, in early trading. The pound was last up 1.05 percent at $1.4852.

The euro <EUR=> touched a six-week high of $1.1421 against the dollar, also on the back of increased odds that Britain will remain in the 28-member European bloc. The currency was last up 0.5 percent at $1.1349.

Both the euro and pound also rose against the safe-haven yen, which took a beating as traders favored riskier assets. The euro <EURJPY=> was last up 1.8 percent against the Japanese currency, moving to 120.01 yen. Sterling <GBPJPY=> added 2.2 percent to 156.91 yen.

Analysts said the big moves in sterling and the euro were the result of bets from large institutions that had hired top polling firms to measure sentiment ahead of Thursday’s referendum.

The dollar hit its highest level against the yen <JPY=> in more than a week on Thursday. It was last up 1.4 percent at 105.80 yen.

Voting in the British referendum will end at 5:00 p.m. EST, with results expected early on Friday.

(Reporting by Dion Rabouin; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andrew Hay)