Sterling has hit an 18-month high against the US dollar and a three-year high against the euro after the Conservative party won the general election with a majority. Investors have welcomed the results as the Prime Minister’s majority means clarity and certainty on Brexit. The pound’s surge vs the US dollar is one of the biggest gains in a decade and economists are now predicting that sterling could strengthen even further.

Since the release of Thursday night’s exit poll clearly showing Boris Johnson was expected to win the election, the pound has gained strength, both against the US dollar and the euro. Now investors are hopeful that Brexit will be delivered on time by the end of January 2020 with Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Conservative triumph: Best outcome for the markets

According to financial analyst at MUFG, Lee Hardman, the election is “the best outcome for financial markets in the near-term. It brings a clear end to the Brexit deadlock in parliament, which will be welcomed and help to ease some of the ongoing uncertainty. The risk of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit will pushed out until the end to next year, and the new government will not be as reliant on securing support from hard Brexiteers during future negotiations. The pound is well placed to extend its advance even after recent strong gains.”

However, other economists are warning that the possibility of a no-deal Brexit in 2020 will put more pressure on the economy. Paul Dales of Capital Economics said that “The majority confirmed in Parliament will allow Johnson to pass his Brexit deal, which would mean the UK leaves the EU on 31st January and enters a status quo transition period until 31st December 2020. A fiscal stimulus of £20bn per year (1% of GDP) may then follow in a Budget in February. But this probably won’t unleash a tidal wave of business investment that leads to much faster GDP growth, much higher interest rates and a much bigger rise in pound than the gain … already seen. That’s because businesses will fear that the UK could end up trading with the EU on WTO terms after 31st December 2020, the immediate effects of which would be similar to those of a ‘no deal.’”

While many investors and analysts have highlighted the uncertainty regarding the next phase of Brexit and the future relationship the UK will negotiate with the EU, nonetheless, the Conservative’s victory is the ideal result for businesses as a clear majority eliminates the risk of a hung parliament and Corbyn’s radical politics, and eases anxiety about Brexit.

Getting Brexit done

This is why, the next step would be for the Prime Minister to secure the right deal with the EU so that businesses can thrive. The Institute of Directors, for example, is asking Johnson to give time to businesses to adjust and secure the right deal with the EU rather than just any deal. Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said:

“Business leaders’ thoughts will immediately be turning to Brexit. For directors, ‘Get Brexit Done’ will only have meaning once the details of our long-term future relationship with the EU are clear, they need a framework to plan for the future from. The Prime Minister must resist the urge for arbitrary negotiating deadlines, and should commit to a proper adjustment period that starts when businesses know the full detail of what changes they may be facing. Our members have made clear that the content and shape of any new deal are much more important than simply the speed in getting there.”

Not only the markets, but also the US president welcomed the results. Donald Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great WIN! Britain and the United States will now be free to strike a massive new Trade Deal after BREXIT. This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the E.U. Celebrate Boris!”

Indeed, with the election results, the UK has demonstrated its preference for Johnson’s clear-cut logic for getting Brexit done and its distaste for Corbyn’s left-wing policies. At the same time, analysts are cautious about the dampening effect Brexit has had on growth and the uncertainty it will continue to exert on the economy as the UK strives to secure a trade deal.

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The British Pound rose against the Euro on Monday after BMG and Survation polls confirmed expectations of a Tory win in the general elections on 12 December. Both polls showed that the Conservative Party was leading the polls, with Labour suffering losses.

The Independent’s BMG poll showed the Conservatives gaining points to 41% and Labour losing 1 point to 32%. ITV's Good Morning Britain Survation poll showed the Conservatives gaining 2 points to 45% and Labour losing 2 points to 31%. Leading by 7 points means that the Tories will win with a majority, while a 14-point lead shows a clear-cut win.

With a Tory majority clearly confirmed by the polls, and fears of a hung parliament receding, the pound rose to a 31-month high against the euro, while against the dollar, the pound was a little bit less than last week’s 7-month highs.

The Survation poll was conducted between 5 and 7 December by telephone with 1,012 respondents. The positive news for the pound is also that Labour is losing rather than gaining points, showing that there is a healthy gap between the two parties and that that gap would be impossible to close in the next three days. Richard Pace, options analyst with Thomson Reuters, said that "Polls continue to show the Conservatives on course for a majority government after Thursday's UK election, which would end the Brexit uncertainty and prove the most favourable outcome for GBP." It appears that a Tory majority is almost now certain, but many traders are waiting to see as the high number of undecided voters could affect the election outcome.

Undecided voters

According to Elsa Lignos of Royal Bank of Canada, undecided voters could really change the election outcome. As she said: “There are two main possible outcomes for this week’s election which will shape the UK for possibly decades to come: (1) A Conservative majority government (exit from the EU at end-Jan on terms of Withdrawal Agreement and then still TBD, the free trade agreement that has to be negotiated by the end of the transition period); (2) A hung Parliament that would see a further delay to the UK’s EU exit and potentially a second referendum. Bookies odds show a Tory majority as a near certainty, in line with the steady gap in most (but not all) opinion polls. But there is a historically high number of undecided voters which could affect as many as 80 marginal seats. We will be neutral GBP going into Thursday and look to trade the outcome.”

Final push

The Telegraph reported that Boris Johnson will visit on Monday Leave-supporting constituencies in England and Wales to urge them to reject Jeremy Corbyn’s “great betrayal” of Brexit and Labour politicians “who sneer at your values and ignore your votes.” He is expected to tell voters in Sunderland later on Monday that "The Labour party has let you down," while Parliament has "bent every rule and broken every convention as it has delayed, diluted and denied Brexit.” Johnson’s message will be that a vote for his party is a vote to "get Brexit done and unleash Britain's potential.”

On the other hand, Labour, will turn towards the economy by highlighting their radical programme of nationalising utilities and the Royal Mail, as well as investing in public services, and creating new rules for businesses and homeowners in the first 100 days of a Corbyn administration.

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Historically, financial markets have favoured the Tory party and Conservative neoliberal and free-market economics. On the other hand, investors have disliked hard left policies that seek to protect the rights of the many at the expense of the few, such as nationalizations and wealth redistribution. It is not surprising then that Corbyn’s Labour policies would be seen by many as potentially damaging to the pound.

Here we have a look at the possible outcomes for the pound in case of a Conservative or a Labour majority, as well as some of the pledges each party has made.

Getting Brexit done

For economists, this is clear. If the result of the next general election is a Conservative majority, then the British Pound will rise. This is the most positive outcome for Sterling as it will end political uncertainty, get Brexit done, and eliminate the prospect of a Corbynite government.

In other words, a Conservative majority will enable Johnson’s deal to pass smoothly through parliament and it will help to stabilise the political and economic landscape. Markets understand that a Tory majority means the immediate implementation of Boris Johnson's Brexit deal and Brexit taking place on 31 January 2020.

In this sense, an unfavourable result will be a weak conservative win or a Labour majority. A Labour government will create uncertainty, as it will introduce a new Brexit deal to be negotiated all over again and a referendum to pass the deal, further threatening the pound.

Additionally, many argue that further uncertainty will be created if there is a Labour coalition. According to Peter Kinsella of the Swiss private bank Union Bancaire Privée, “We certainly have not priced in anything like a Labour-type coalition, and if we did, it (the Pound) would certainly be an awful lot lower. We have priced out no-deal but we have not priced in any electoral certainty yet.”

A coalition could be positive for Sterling?

However, others are more optimistic.  JPMorgan sees that a “hung parliament which delivered or held out the prospect of a softer-Brexit coalition of the left-of-centre parties (Labour/Lib Dems/SNP) might actually be GBP positive." Jordan Rochester at Nomura has also said back in May: “GBP would also benefit from Labour’s stance on Brexit being somewhat ‘softer’ than the Conservatives, especially if it forms a coalition with the SNP and Liberal Democrats. A coalition government may encourage some to argue GBP should be lower owing to the uncertainty. But the removal of austerity (leading to higher real yields) and renewed arguments as to a ‘softer’ Brexit are likely to inspire less GBP negativity as once thought.”

Taxes and spending

The Conservatives have pledged to spend more than £250m to invest in broadband, roads, the NHS, schools, roads and police. The Chancellor Sajid Javid has said that the money, which will come from the Housing Infrastructure Fund will help improve roads, schools and transport links. He said: “I have now launched an infrastructure revolution and this step-change in funding will ensure that all parts of the country benefit as we level-up opportunities. This £250m will increase the number of houses available to buy and help support people to achieve their dream of home ownership.” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell criticised Javid's "pathetic publicity stunt announcement" and said: "When there are millions of people on our housing waiting lists and families with children living in containers, we need real change and real investment in our infrastructure, not this derisory drop in the ocean."

In terms of personal taxes, Conservatives will increase the threshold for the 40p rate of income tax from £50,000 to £80,000 and raise the starting point for national insurance (NI), which will be worth £460 per worker. The income tax will cost £8bn a year and help 2.5 million of the highest-earning employees.

Labour has not made any specific promises yet but according to its 2017 manifesto, it will increase income tax rates to 45 percent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 percent for salaries over £123,000. They will spend £250bn on upgrading transport, energy and broadband infrastructure.

This is why, the latest newspaper headlines highlight fears of a Labour government and how wealthy individuals are transferring their money abroad before the general election, since as they stated, “If Corbyn gets in, we're sending our money to Switzerland.” Another recent article, “Super-rich prepare to leave UK 'within minutes' if Labour wins election,” shows how the UK’s richest families are preparing to shift their fortunes and make early gifts to their children in order to avoid Corbyn’s threat to tax inheritances above £125,000. Lawyers and advisers for these millionaire and billionaire clients have said that for these rich individuals, a Corbyn-led government is a bigger threat to their wealth than a hard Brexit.

Health and social care

Conservatives will spend £13bn under a “Health Infrastructure Plan” to build 40 new hospitals in England, but only £2.8bn and six hospitals will go ahead at first. Labour will increase spending which will be paid by the income tax rises on the highest 5 percent of earners and will increase tax on private medical insurance. It will create a new National Care Service for social care for those over-65s (cost £6bn), scrap prescription charges (cost £750m) and develop a state drug company to develop cheaper drugs. It will also increase GP trainee numbers in England by 50 per cent. While more is expected from Labour’s latest manifesto, the 2017 election pledge referred to £30bn in extra funding.

Brexit and NHS: “everything is on the table”

Brexit has complicated the issues of the NHS, with fears of medicine shortages in a no-deal Brexit scenario. It has also opened the possibility of negotiating new trade deals with such countries as the US. Back in June, during a press conference with the then Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump claimed that “everything is on the table” when it comes to striking a deal with the UK, including the NHS. He said: “So NHS or anything else. A lot more than that.” Whether he meant it or not, this has now created fears that the UK would be paying more for medicines under a US trade deal and passing on costs to both patients and the NHS.

Following the comments of drug pricing expert Dr Andrew Hill on Dispatches that the US spends more per capita than the UK on medicines, something that would equate to an extra £500 million a week in the UK, Labour has used the £500 million figure in an attempt to also criticise Brexiters’ early claims of funding the NHS with £350 million a week.

It is within this context that Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of wanting to “hijack Brexit to unleash Thatcherism on steroids.” He added: “Johnson and the Leave campaign promised to rebuild our NHS. Johnson stood in front of a bus and promised £350 million a week for the NHS. Now we find out that £500 million a week could be taken out of the NHS and handed to big drugs companies under his plans for a sell-out trade deal with Donald Trump.”

Of course, this has been denied by the Conservatives who said that it was “shameful” that Labour was spreading “lies about the NHS.”

Boris Johnson already clarified at a press conference with Trump that the NHS “is not for sale.” His health secretary Matt Hancock and trade secretary Liz Truss also said that “The price the NHS pays for drugs won’t be on the table. And the services the NHS delivers won’t be on the table.”

With no concrete evidence, Labour is using political rhetoric to set itself as the party that is committed to protecting the NHS from any such threat. For many commentators, speculation will continue as Johnson will delay the Conservative manifesto launch until just two weeks before the general election. Labour’s manifesto will be out next week after officials decide this Saturday on which policies to include.

As the election campaign heats up, and as the parties publicise their manifestos, the pound will continue to be impacted by political developments. For investors, the only thing certain at the moment, is that a Conservative government appears to be the best possible deal for the future of the pound.