International businesses have been preparing for Brexit while carefully watching updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic and slow economic recovery. On Friday, news that the UK borrowed a record of £35.9bn in August, with borrowing since August hitting £173.7bn, while factory output dropped 44% last month, have added to concerns of a weakening economic recovery.

Importers and Exporters Facing New Customs Controls

UK cabinet minister Michael Gove, in a letter to logistics groups, has already stressed the government's analysis in regards to the potential disruptions that could affect importers and exporters once the Brexit transition period ends.

The cabinet document stated that queues of up to 7,000 trucks might form in Kent, resulting in two-day delays in the worst possible scenario. The document also said that, "Irrespective of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, traders will face new customs controls and processes. Simply put, if traders, both in the UK and EU, have not completed the right paperwork, their goods will be stopped when entering the EU and disruption will occur."

On a more general note, but equally worrying, reacting to Brexit, JPMorgan has decided to move $230 billion in assets from London to its Frankfurt-based subsidiary in Germany.

UK Borrowing Increases, as Car Production Drops

Britain’s economy has been terribly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic as it was announced on Friday. The government borrowed £35.9bn last month according to the Office for National Statistics. The UK has now borrowed £173.7bn since the start of the financial year in April, as a result of the pandemic. August’s borrowing has pushed the UK’s national debt to £2,023.9bn, and the ONS estimates that UK borrowing could exceed £372bn for the current financial year.

The ONS says the increase in borrowing was caused by a fall in tax receipts, and the ongoing cost of protecting the economy. Central government tax receipts are estimated to have been £37.3 billion in August 2020 and central government bodies are estimated to have spent £78.5 billion on day-to-day activities (current expenditure) in August 2020. Britain can borrow at record lows and the Bank of England is prepared to expand its bond-buying QE programme (currently £745bn) if it is deemed necessary.

According to the Financial Times’ Chris Giles, today’s borrowing figures, do not include expected government costs: “The UK’s public finances have continued on a path towards a record peacetime deficit in 2020-21, with the central government borrowing £221.2bn in the first five months of the financial year to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Although that figure was lower than the Office for Budget Responsibility, the fiscal watchdog, had expected, the official statistics are yet to incorporate expected losses on government-backed loans to companies and £24bn of new spending for the NHS, vaccines and coronavirus testing the Treasury revealed on Thursday. The £221.2bn central government cash requirement between April and August was 11 times greater than the highest ever cash borrowing figure at this point in the financial year since equivalent records began 36 years ago.”

August’s borrowing reflects higher spending to tackle the coronavirus pandemic as over £10bn was spent on the retention and self-employment schemes in August.

Car Manufacturing Falls

Additionally, UK car manufacturing declined -44.6% in August with the ongoing coronavirus crisis making efforts to increase output more difficult as demand overseas has weakened. Production this year is down -40.2% with a loss of 348,821 units.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has reported that the UK car manufacturing fell 44% last month compared with August 2019. Factories’ exports and domestic orders fell dramatically.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “These are increasingly disturbing times for UK car makers and suppliers with the coronavirus crisis weighing heavily on the sector. Companies are bracing for a second wave with tighter social and business restrictions making the industry’s attempts to restart even more challenging.”

Are you a Business Transferring Funds Abroad?

If you are an exporter or importer and worried about your international trade costs, and the volatility of the British pound, you should get professional assistance when transferring funds abroad. Get in touch with Universal Partners FX to find out about efficient risk management and tailored solutions to your business’s transfer needs.

There are many incentives to buying property overseas, especially when you choose to buy your dream home in a place such as Portugal. From the beautiful countryside to its beach resorts and golf communities, Portugal has a lot to offer. For those investors who are looking for a good opportunity, the country’s low taxes and its strong rental market are key to seal the deal.

But how is the current property market, and how does Brexit and Covid-19 affect your buying plans?

The price of a property can be severely impacted by various factors such as the state of the economy, both in the country of residence and in the country you are buying in, as well as supply and demand. You might also want to consider that the investment you are making now will not be affected by the political climate in the specific country. 2020 has been a difficult year, as many countries, including the UK are still dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of further lockdowns, while Brexit is still looming in the near distance.  The pandemic has deeply hurt economies and has inevitably hurt property prices home and abroad, making earlier investments seem more affordable now, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  

Brexit will accelerate the process of buying a home

British buyers are trying to secure their property abroad and their right to residency by buying before the Brexit deadline. Estate agents predict that the autumn will be a busy time for buyers dominated by higher property prices until the end of December, indicating that it is perhaps better to start your research now and ensure you do not pay more for a house you could have got much cheaper earlier.

Portugal, for example, has taken steps to attract British buyers, especially retirees by offering attractive tax schemes. Portugal is ranked the best country in the world for expatriates.

NHR Tax Status

In 2009, the Portuguese government introduced the Non-Habitual Tax Resident status (NHR) to attract high value residents, and it offered reduced tax rates and some exemptions for the first ten years in the country. Until recently, NHR allowed most foreign pension income to be tax-free. However, the 2020 Portuguese Budget introduced new changes to the NHR approved by the Portuguese Parliament on Thursday 6th February 2020. According to it, there will be a 10% tax on the foreign revenue of British pensioners and other foreigners who move to Portugal, with those living there before 2020 not being affected. If you already have NHR status or applied for Portuguese residence before 1 April 2020, when the new regime came into effect, you can still be eligible for exemptions on your UK pension income for the remainder of your ten-year NHR period.

No matter what, the tax is much lower than that charged in other countries such as the UK and significantly lower than the Portuguese income tax rates of 14.5% to 48%. It is still considered very attractive to foreigners.

The proposed changes come to address specific tax regimes and visa schemes that offer EU residency rights in return for property purchases. Retired Portuguese nationals and residents outside the NHR regime cannot access such tax breaks, there has also been pressure for change from within Portugal itself.

Whether low taxes or the Portuguese lifestyle itself seem appealing to you, real estate agents argue that now is the right time to buy and transfer your money abroad to complete your property purchase. They see that confidence will soon return to the market by the autumn of 2021 and that the first few months of the year will present an even bigger opportunity to buy.

If you are a British buyer, and want to secure a strong investment opportunity, now is the time to get in touch with your currency broker. A currency specialist such as Universal Partners FX can help you navigate the current market while taking into consideration your specific needs, goals and your budget.

When considering buying your dream home in Portugal, Universal Partners FX can give you peace of mind when sending money overseas. If you want to schedule ahead and safeguard your funds, talk to one of their foreign exchange experts today.

The pound was pulled from different directions yesterday, as on the one hand, the Bank of England hinting at negative interest rates pushed it lower, and on the other hand, positive Brexit news helped lift it.

The pound fell after the Bank of England said that it is considering how to use negative interest rates and it will discuss with regulators how to efficiently implement them. The pound dropped sharply after the announcement.

As quoted on Bloomberg, Valentin Marinov, head of foreign exchange research and strategy at Credit Agricole SA, said: “Negative rates are the nuclear option. It could ultimately push the pound into uncharted territory of losing whatever is left of its rate advantage.”

A Brexit Trade Deal is Still Possible

Despite the negative news, there was a glimpse of positivity on Thursday after the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she remains "convinced" that an EU-UK trade deal is still possible, which helped the pound recover. Von der Leyen, speaking to the Financial Times, said: "I am still convinced it can be done. It is better not to have this distraction questioning an existing international agreement that we have, but to focus on getting this deal done, this agreement done - and time is short." Another EU diplomat said that "we should not overreact... We will continue negotiations because there are two separate tracks: one is the one which the UK has decided to violate, and the other is the future relationship."

If markets maintain a similar view that a trade deal is possible then the pound will be supported.

Bank of England’s Negative Interest Rate Surprise

After the Bank unexpectedly said that it was considering the possibility to cut interest rates to 0% or below in the coming months, to help support the economy, the pound fell.  There have never been any negative interest rates before in the UK and if the Bank moves ahead with changing the rates to record lows, this could really shake the financial system, especially due to the UK’s current account deficit. As Pound Sterling Live noted, this could leave “the UK's financial system, and Pound Sterling in particular, exposed to capital withdrawals from foreign investors.”

The shocking revelation was found within the Bank’s minutes to the meeting where it stated that it would start a "structured engagement" with the Prudential Regulation Authority in order to potentially cut interest rates to negative.

Senior market analyst at Western Union, Joe Manimbo said: "The U.K. Pound staged a swoon after the Bank of England dropped clear signals that it was edging closer to implementing negative borrowing rates. The big news was that officials were actively studying plans to push rates below zero given the ‘unusually uncertain’ economic outlook. Central bankers noted better data of late but signalled heightened concern related to Covid uncertainty, expectations of a sharp rise in unemployment and potential Brexit shocks."

However, some economists believe that the Bank will not push interest rates into negative territory and the recent news is part of the Bank’s research into negative interest rates rather than something more solid and definite.

But as Bloomberg said, a no-deal Brexit might just be the trigger for the BoE to use negative rates: “It’s becoming increasingly likely that if the economy is blown off course next year, the central bank could employ sub-zero rates.”

With the UK struggling to contain coronavirus infections, the imposition of new lockdown restrictions, unemployment and a disruptive Brexit could make the situation in the UK very difficult and push the Bank to make some hard decisions.

 

Are you Transferring Funds Abroad?

If you are worried about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, and the British currency falling even further, you should get professional assistance when transferring funds abroad. Whether you are sending money to family or friends, paying employees overseas, or managing regular payments abroad, you need to protect your international payments’ budget from market volatility. Get in touch with Universal Partners FX to find out about efficient risk management and tailored solutions to your transfer needs.

 

The pound rose against the dollar on Wednesday, as the greenback was under pressure following the release of disappointing US retail sales figures for August.

The GBP/USD pair rose higher to weekly tops, despite the Brexit impasse and the latest saga with Boris Johnson’s Internal Market bill.

Wednesday's main event was the highly anticipated FOMC monetary policy decision - where rates look set to remain stable at near zero - and updated economic and inflation projections, ahead of Thursday’s BoE meeting. Due to the key FOMC event, trading opportunities and volatility around the GBP/USD currency pair might arise ahead of the event.

Brexit

The pound was also supported after Justice Secretary Robert Buckland hinted the Government could amend the Internal Market Bill in order to compromise with Tories criticising the PM for breaking an international treaty and avoid a rift within the Conservative party. The government’s change of heart could help soften the EU’s stance and resume negotiations with the EU.

Buckland said that the original plans in the Bill could be made "acceptable to all Conservative colleagues".

With investors digesting the political reality and remaining confident that a deal is still possible, the pound was lifted after the initial news of the Internal Market bill.

"Outsized moves in GBP ... have injected a sizeable risk premium in GBP. It's now trading at a decent discount on our short-term valuation, underscoring that some of the recent Brexit news has already been priced in. At the very least, this backdrop suggests that in the coming weeks GBP would benefit more from good news rather than sink further on bad news. We still expect more volatility but risk/reward favours taking profit at these levels," said Mark McCormick of TD Securities.

Bank of England Policy and Interest Rate Decision on Thursday

The Bank of England will try and assess on Thursday the UK’s economic recovery and whether it needs to adjust its policy to offer more monetary support. For many economists, now it is not the right time to make significant changes to its package. Adding to the Bank’s woes about the UK economy comes the UK inflation which fell to its lowest level in nearly five years, to an annual 0.2%, far away from the Bank’s official 2% target.

The Bank is expected to take action in its November meeting, as the economy slowly recovers. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast released on Wednesday, UK gross domestic product would shrink by 10.1% this year, while the economy is forecast to rebound in 2021. Given the political and economic uncertainty, the BoE will possibly wait and see what kind of fiscal stimulus is necessary to support the economy. But Reuters noted that “While the central bank is widely expected to hold fire, policymakers are likely to conclude that downside risks to the economy are rising for the economy due to rising Brexit uncertainty and renewed restrictions on social activity.”

Are you Transferring Funds Abroad?

If you are worried about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, and the British currency remaining sensitive to Brexit uncertainty, you should get professional assistance when transferring funds abroad. Whether you are sending money to family or friends, paying employees overseas, or managing regular payments abroad, you need to protect your international payments’ budget from market volatility. Get in touch with Universal Partners FX to find out about efficient risk management and tailored solutions to your transfer needs.

Fears that Britain will leave the European Union without any trade agreement sent the pound to new 5-1/2-month lows on Friday, despite the UK economic recovery and a new trade deal with Japan. Businesses are as worried as ever as Boris Johnson’s government continues to defy calls from the EU to be more flexible and meet its demands. With Johnson’s latest controversial bill, businesses that export and import goods from/to Ireland are in a precarious position.

Theresa May, the former prime minister, asked: “How can the government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs?”

Worst week for the pound

Reuters reported that this is the worst week for the pound both against the euro and the dollar since mid-March. The fall was the result of reports that “Brussels has stepped up planning for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government refused to revoke an ultimatum on breaking the divorce treaty which Brussels says will sink four years of Brexit talks.”

Klaus Baader, global chief economist at Societe Generale said: “The probability between a deal and no-deal are definitely shifting towards a no deal -- that is very clear. The risk of a no-deal is increasing every day.” Morgan Stanley also said that the risk of Britain exiting on “WTO terms” had risen to 40% compared to 25% earlier.

UK Rejects EU’s Demands, as Brexit Uncertainty Increases

The EU has warned the UK that the controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill are illegal and that it will need to remove them by the end of the month. Tories have also criticised Boris Johnson’s proposed Internal Market Bill, which will be debated on Monday by MPs in the House of Commons.

The new bill puts into question the Northern Ireland protocol, which is part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement approved in January. The protocol ensures that the province will come under the European Union’s single-market rules in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland. However, the new law would give UK ministers the right to change rules regarding the movement of goods if the UK and EU are unable to reach a trade deal. A government spokesman said that the bill will "ensure the government can always deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland". The bill tries to bypass the formal discussions and bend the rules to deliver Brexit at all costs.

The EU said that these new changes needed to be removed as they jeopardise the UK-EU trade talks. But the government has defied the EU saying that the PM’s proposed bill seeks to protect the “integrity of the UK and the peace process in Northern Ireland.”

On Monday, informal talks between the two sides will resume as differences remain and Brexit appears as uncertain as ever. With the UK government referring to the EU’s lack of realism, one would perhaps question whether discussions will reach any agreement or things would soon diverge even further.

The next official round of talks will begin on 28 September.

Positive News Fails to Lift the Pound

News that the UK has struck its first major “historic” post-Brexit trade deal with Japan has done little to offer substantial support to the pound. The deal will boost trade by about £15bn and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said that it would bring "new wins" for British businesses in manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries. However, critics said that the deal will only slightly boost the UK GDP by only 0.07%, which is not comparable to the trades that will be lost by leaving the EU. Britain said that 99% of its exports to Japan would be tariff-free.

But neither this news helped support the pound, neither the fact that the Office for National Statistics reported that UK economic output grew by 6.6% in July as pubs, restaurants and other sectors reopened.

Are you a Business Transferring funds abroad?

With businesses worried about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, and the British currency remaining sensitive to Brexit uncertainty, you should get professional assistance when transferring funds abroad. Whether you are importing or exporting goods, paying employees overseas, or managing regular payments abroad, you need to be prepared and protect your business and bottom line from market volatility. Get in touch with Universal Partners FX to find out about efficient risk management and tailored solutions to your business’ transfer needs.

Buying property in Cyprus has grown consistently over the recent years, with many Brits relocating in the Republic of Cyprus. While Covid-19 has hurt the market, interest in property continues as the market is slowly recovering. Paphos and Limassol, for example, are especially sought after as they offer amazing villas and luxury properties in beautiful locations, allowing Brits to enjoy the best of what the island has to offer. In such areas, foreigners constitute as much as 75 percent of the market. Last year, world famous Colombian pop singer Shakira and her famous partner Gerard Pique, who plays for Barcelona football club, bought an exclusive villa in the coastal village of Peyia in Paphos. Celebrities and Hollywood stars have for years chosen Cyprus for their vacations. Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Malkovich, Elton John, Diana Ross and Rod Stewart are a few of the rich and famous who chose to spend their holidays on the sunny Mediterranean island.

Why Cyprus?

With Cyprus being warm all year round, having sandy beaches, and hospitable people, it is not surprising that it has become as popular as Spain’s Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca. The big difference however is that the island offers some beautiful but affordable properties.

Home prices on Cyprus are indeed much cheaper when compared to Marbella, Spain, or the Algarve in Portugal. Whereas a villa in Spain or Portugal would be about 400,000 or 450,000 euros ($475,000 to $535,000), a villa in Paphos would be half the price. Cyprus’s coastal property prices could “range from as much as $724 a square foot in Limassol district to as little as $423 a square foot in Paphos district.”

Before the pandemic, Russians and Chinese buyers were the top international buyers, with many relocating their families and acquiring European citizenship by investing in property. German, British and Scandinavian buyers, as well as buyers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine and South Africa have also preferred Cyprus, due to its location and its proximity to Europe.

Things to consider when buying property in Cyprus

Although some foreigners have bought houses in the illegally occupied area of Cyprus, these have usually been controversial due to the complexities and restrictions on home purchases on that part of Cyprus. As a recent article in the New York Times noted, “While European Union citizens with residency in the southern part of Cyprus can purchase unlimited properties there, others are limited to one apartment, house or plot….In northern Cyprus, the limit is four properties” but “buyers wishing to purchase a home there must confirm in advance that it actually belongs to the seller and not to a Greek Cypriot, because they may be exposed to criminal liability due to the political situation in Cyprus.”

Buyers across Cyprus should also be careful when buying a property, ensuring that the house “is free of any charges, mortgages or other encumbrances with the provincial land registry.”

When you decide to purchase a property on the island, it is usually recommended that you get in touch with a lawyer who will typically charge about 2,000 euros to serve as your local lawyer, protecting your interests and explaining the complexities of the market. When you are purchasing property, stamp duties range from 3 percent to 8 percent, depending on the property’s sale price, with the seller paying 5 percent real estate commission.

If you are considering buying your dream home in Cyprus, you should contact a foreign exchange specialist to assist you with transferring your money abroad, explain currency exchange, and hedge your funds from unpredictable currency movements. Get in touch with Universal Partners FX so you can have peace of mind when sending a large amount of money overseas. If you want to schedule ahead and safeguard your funds, talk to one of their foreign exchange experts today.