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