Sterling’s coming home…albeit slowly
Despite buoyant domestic expectations (or at least hope) football will not be coming home after the England football team lost on penalties to Italy in Sunday’s final of the Euro Championship but Sterling is arguably coming home, albeit slowly.
The GBP/EUR cross has this week traded mostly above 1.17, a level which has proven hard to break. GBP/EUR is up about 0.6% since late-June, in line with our modestly bullish view, and we expect further modest appreciation in the remainder of Q3 (see “Sterling leads Euro 1-0 at half-time in dull encounter but could extend advantage”, 29th June 2021).
The catalyst for Sterling’s outperformance versus the Euro has arguably been the widening differential between UK and Eurozone CPI-inflation, the Bank of England’s more hawkish rhetoric relative to a still very dovish European Central Bank and markets upping their pricing of Bank of England policy rate hikes.
The recent hawkish pivots by Monetary Policy Council members Ramsden and in particular Saunders may not yet enjoy consensus support. However, it is increasingly clear, in our view, that the MPC is divided (and vocally so) as to if and when it should prematurely terminate its QE program and when it should start hiking its policy rate.
The rates market, which is now pricing in 21bp of Bank of England hikes by mid-September 2022, is seemingly siding with the hawks which is in turn providing some ammunition (even if still a little blunt) to Sterling bulls.
We expect reasonably robust UK GDP growth in coming months to push headline CPI-inflation above the Bank of England’s “peak forecast” of 3% yoy. We are thus sticking to our view that the gap between UK and Eurozone growth and CPI-inflation will widen further and see the Bank of England becoming increasingly hawkish, in absolute terms and relative to the ECB.
Finally, the typically very large UK tourism deficits, including with Eurozone countries, are likely to be far smaller than normal in July-August, which could in turn up-end Sterling’s typical seasonal weakness versus the Euro in these two months.
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Olivier is an economist and rates & FX strategist with over 22 years experience in financial markets. He is Director and Founder of 4X Global Research, an independent, London-based consultancy which provides institutional and corporate clients with substantive research, high-quality analysis and insight on emerging and G20 economies and financial markets.