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Monetary policy meetings and interest rate hikes – Will the Pound weaken further this week?

The week ahead will be a major one for the Pound, Euro and US Dollar will all three respective central banks announcing further developments in their battle to reduce inflation back to target levels, through their monetary policy meetings this week. Monetary policy meetings and decisions on interest rates help us to understand the current health of the economy, which is the main influence on a currency’s value and, any adverse movement away from the expectation within the market, may result in volatile movement.

The Pound lost ground last week temporarily last week off the back of weak goods price and economic output data, both underwhelming expectations, but the main contributing factor against the Euro were the hawkish announcements from several European Central Bank members, leading to this week’s meeting. ECB members Joachim Nagel, Gabriel Makhlouf and Boštjan Vasle all agreed last week that the central bank will need to raise interest rates at this meeting, and meetings after that in order to bring inflation back down to the target level of 2%.

The latest reading of inflation was measured at 9.2% in January, down from 10.1% in December, but the reason for such a sudden drop was some member government’s intervention on energy prices, helping reduce such an impact over the winter months. Core inflation within the bloc continues to grow and the President of the ECB, Christine Lagarde, was also assured of upcoming interest rate hikes as the answer in her most recent speech last week. “We have made it clear that ECB interest rates will still have to rise significantly at a steady pace to reach levels that are sufficiently restrictive, and stay at those levels for as long as necessary,” Lagarde said. The ECB, and Lagarde specifically, have a reputation for being more dovish than other central banks but, if these comments are reflected in this week’s meeting, then we can expect a more bullish and positive approach moving forward.

The Bank of England are expected to have more of a cautious tone as they navigate their best route of bringing inflation back to target levels. The Consumer Price Index readings, in other words inflation levels, have steadily begun to drop over the past few months, from 11.1% in November to 10.5% in January. This will put less pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates largely at this meeting, or act more aggressively with future decisions, as their target is gradually being achieved.

Governor of the BoE, Andrew Bailey, recently discussed the generalised prediction within the market of peak interest rates at 6%, and commented that they were way too high. With the current bank rate sitting at 3.5%, expectation in the market is that the peak will now sit nearer to 4.5% in the months to come. Bailey did also, however, discuss the potential upcoming recession, predicted as the longest recession in 100 years by the Bank itself, and did so in a more positive light: “It has unfortunately got the characteristic of being long, but shallow. I would say that energy prices have come down so that ought to be a positive.

We have lower gas and oil prices and that will help to alleviate that real income shock somewhat. The market interest rate curve has come down, the exchange rate has strengthened a bit which will help a bit in terms of its pass through to inflation. So, there are those contributing factors and we will have to do the analysis over the next couple of weeks (next monetary report) to see what we turn those into.” 2 out of 9 members of the BoE voted for the interest rates to remain unchanged at the last meeting in December, so could we see more members begin to follow suit in fear of a recession on the horizon, or will the Bank’s comments provide support to the Pound instead as inflation continues to drop?

The US dollar has benefitted from the most aggressive policy tightening path in four decades in the US, as well as risk on sentiment within the global economy in 2022, and is now beginning to lose footing against a basket of major currencies in recent weeks. Cable rose 6 cents in January, with Euro also gaining 5 cents against the greenback within that timeframe, as the Federal Reserve head towards their monetary policy meeting on the first day of February. After two 75 and one 50 basis point hikes in recent months, there are speculations within the market of a more modest rate hike to give inflation time to decrease as monetary policy lags behind, and not drive the economy into an unnecessary recession in moving too aggressively.

CPI readings in the US peaked at 9.1% in July and have dropped to 6.5% in the most recent announcement, which displays the effect the quickened pace of interest rate hikes may have had on the market. Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, stood firm on the central bank’s policy for 2023, however, in a speech to kick off the year. “…restoring price stability when inflation is high can require measures that are not popular in the short term as we raise interest rates to slow the economy. The absence of direct political control over our decisions allows us to take these necessary measures without considering short-term political factors.”

Will the dollar gain back its recent losses? Can the Euro continue on its more positive start to 2023?

Key dates this week:

Mon – German GDP figures
Tues – German Retail sales & CPI figures, Eurozone GDP
Wed – Eurozone CPI, US Manufacturing PMI & Fed interest rate decision
Thurs – ECB and BoE interest rate decisions
Fri – Nonfarm payrolls US

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What will 2023 Bring For Sterling Exchange Rates?

Sterling exchange rates have dropped on the whole throughout 2022 and it is fair to say there are a number of quite obvious reasons behind the poor performance of the pound over the course of the year.

Here is a summary of GBP paired against a selection of major currencies and the movement since 1st Jan 2022 as an example.

GBP/USD -10.79%

GBP/EUR -4.97%

GBP/CAD -5.44%

GBP/AUD -4.69%

GBP/CHF -9.97%

All in all, the above suggests the pound indeed had a torrid time of it, most notably shortly after Liz Truss became Prime Minister and we saw a mini budget announced from then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng which ultimately cost him his job, but also knocked the pound for six, dropping to a 1985 low against the Dollar at one point.

We in fact had three Prime Ministers and four Finance ministers over the year, not a recipe for certainty and stability.

On top of this, the Bank of England have been fairly slow to act on raising interest rates in comparison to other Central Banks around the world, we are still yet to see if this move will pay off now that inflation is expected to start to come down, however what that has done is led to a flow of money out of the pound and into more rewarding currencies, such as the USD where the Federal Reserve have been aggressive in their interest rate hikes, thus making their currency more attractive to investors looking for a great return.

What will 2023 bring?

There is no getting away from the fact that 2023 will be a tough year for many and that the UK will likely be in recession for most if not the whole year, however it is also important to remember that the UK is not alone with this problem.

Equally the same can be said for inflation issues, cost of living, energy prices and the prospect of Covid poking its nose back into daily life more aggressively once again, virtually the whole world has these issues, the key will really be how they are dealt with and who can bounce back the quickest.

I would hope that this year the UK can avoid the political turmoil seen over a number of months in 2022, political certainty is one of the key drivers for the performance of a currency and there is absolutely no doubt the circus act that played out earlier in the year from Boris to Liz to Kwasi with many smaller parts played as well will have done nothing but hurt the pound and I still don’t believe it has truly recovered internationally because of this.

Investors however do seem to feel that Sunak and Hunt are a safer pair of hands, so should they avoid any drama in the coming year this should settle the pound a little and I believe this would give Sterling exchange rates the chance of a better year.

In terms of the economic issues that we are facing I would be a fool to say there won’t be moments throughout 2023 that will cause nerves for investors and speculators when it comes to the Pound.

We clearly will have a squeeze on everything, the person on the street already has less in their pocket and that seems like it may only continue, this will in turn hit retailers and could cause a domino effect on the UK’s economic performance as a whole.

Many may not have felt the interest rate squeeze on their mortgage yet but there will be a lot of renewals coming up in 2023 which could cause further issues for households and house prices as a whole are expected to come down.

Bills on the whole for everyone are going up whether it is heating your home, filling up your car or getting your weekly shop everything is becoming tougher and there are many in the UK that are struggling already, so I feel the first few months of 2023 could continue to be a tough period for sterling exchange rates, as it is unlikely consumers will be flying out of the traps to spend in early 2023 if anything it could be time to batten down the hatches and to get to Spring.

From Spring onwards it wouldn’t surprise me to see people out spending again, if only a little. Heating will be going off, that British attitude of keep calm and carry on will likely play its part and I would hope that 6 months of political stability might start to draw investors back in.

Despite the challenges the UK faces as a whole there is a huge amount going for it. During and after the last big recession in 2008 the UK bounced back considerably well and outpaced all other members of the G7, so it does show that historically the UK can bounce back and bounce back well, so this will all being well give investors confidence to look to the pound, especially whilst it is what could be deemed undervalued and it would not surprise me to start seeing investors position themselves for a Sterling recovery later in the year.

Morgan Stanley recently published that they believe the pound would be in their top ten surprises of 2023 and expect Sterling strength, you can find many other economists arguing the opposite but I tend to agree with Morgan Stanley on this one.

My expectations are of a fairly bleak and challenging winter further pushing the pound only to see a recovery as the year progress, albeit it is really hard to know for sure what is around the corner in the currency markets, this is where I feel things could pan out for the pound in 2023.

Currency exchange to carry out in 2023?

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I wish you all a Happy New Year and a fantastic 2023.

Red hot week for economic data, as temperatures across the UK plummet

Things have been looking brighter for the pound in recent weeks and the pound finished last week strong, after suffering a near two and a half cent (1.2345 to 1.2106) slide against the greenback (GBP/USD) from Monday to Wednesday. The pound has benefited from an improved ‘risk on’ appetite in recent weeks and responds well to positive news. Cable finished the trading week on the 1.23 handle.

The positive news in question relates to recent comments from US Federal reserve chair Jerome Powell’s comments around a slowdown in the rate hiking cycle in the US. A 50-basis point hike was almost confirmed by Powell in Wednesday’s latest Fed policy meeting, a reversal from the recent string of 75bp hikes. The Fed are having to deal with a dip in the Inflation levels in the US. Recent data announcements for US inflation slow a drop in previous levels of inflation. Ultimately this has caused the Fed to slow down their previous 75bp bullish approach to rate raises.

The pound along with stocks have been put under pressure by the continual weight of US interest rate hikes throughout 2022, so this slight change in tone gives support for the pound. The relationship between the pound and the stock market is one to keep an eye on. The pound is known to have a positive relationship with the S&P 500, which is known as the benchmark for global investor sentiment. When investor confidence peaks, more money flows into the UK thus creating a demand for GBP. Traditionally the UK suffers from a current account deficit, as an island nation we import more goods than we export so buy more foreign currency than we earn in GBP. Greater flows of currency into the UK, will typically see the pound rally as the current account deficit is ‘plugged’.

In addition, China has recently announced a relaxation of strict COVID-19 protocols across the country. Zero-COVID Protocols have been in place across China for almost 3 years since the first outbreak began in early 2020. This change in approach from the second largest economy has given a small change in tone to investor confidence, which in turn supports the pound.

Against the Euro the pound was stuck within 1 cent range (1.1673-1.1571) throughout the week, with the pound again finishing the week strong with a rally closing the week nicely for Sterling. The pound finished the week at trading at 1.1670.

The week commencing 12 th December is a data heavy week across the world, this morning GDP figures for October in the UK were announced with a 0.5% reading for the UK released, a slight upturn in the 0.4% reading forecast. An uplift from the -0.6% recorded for September. Nevertheless, there are still stark warnings from the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, that the UK faces a recession. The UK recorded a -0.3% growth figure for the most recent quarter, which means should this current quarter provide negative growth we will officially be in a recession. This positive news on GDP has yet to influence the pound this morning. Tuesday, we have US inflation levels, with 7.3% the forecasted down from the previous 7.7%. Thus, linking the comments earlier in the blog about why the Fed are having to alter their approach. Wednesday morning UK inflation levels are being released; a 10.9% forecast is expected down from the previous 11.1%.

Wednesday and Thursday are arguably the most important days this week, it sees the Federal reserve have their latest round of interest rate talks on Wednesday. It is widely expected a 50bp hike is set to be approved, taking US interest rates up to 4.5%.

Thursday lunch time the Bank of England are set to announce a further 50bp raise for interest rates in the UK. This means from December 2021- December 2022 the UK base rate will have increased from 0.1% – 3.5%, the bank is still consistent on achieving their 2% inflation agenda. An eyewatering rise for anyone who has had to secure finance from the banks in recent months.

One key piece of information to watch is how the policymaker’s vote. There are 9 policymakers who sit on the bank of England monetary policy board, they will all vote for what rate raise they deem appropriate. There are some reports there could be the first 4-way split since 1997, which could cause volatility on the pound depending upon how the results show. The markets will digest the split as to future approaches from the bank regarding rate raises. More votes skewed towards a smaller hike could in turn suggest the bank may also look to slow down on its interest rate policy in coming meetings as more members of the board are starting to share the same opinion.

The European Central Bank will also speak on Thursday afternoon to give their latest interest rate decision, the ECB are typically known as the more ‘laid back’ of the big three central banks. One of the key reasons as to why they are deemed ‘laid back’ is the Eurozone consists of 19 countries who all adopt the Euro as their currency, when the ECB raises rates, it effects 19 different economies who are all in contrasting economic condition. Germany often known as Europe’s powerhouse will have the same interest rate as Greece, a country with a troubled economic past. Consequently, they historically are more methodical in their approach to changing policy. This rate raise will take rates across the eurozone to 2.5%.

With the weather set to dip well below freezing across the UK this week it may be wise to speak to one of our highly experienced team and see if we can help you get your currency exposure wrapped up with one of our contract options.

There is a red-hot week of economic data lined up which can cause volatility swings, do not get caught out in the cold!

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