The pound has regained its momentum since yesterday, after the positive news of new US Federal Reserve stimulus and the latest post-Brexit trade talks between the EU and the UK.

Sterling rose after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that there is a "very good chance" a trade deal will be made with the EU. Both Johnson and the EU Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen agreed that there will not be an extension to the Brexit transition period, which will end on 31 December 2020. The pressure is now on both sides to agree on a post-Brexit trade deal, so the UK does not leave the bloc without a deal. If the UK leaves the bloc without a deal, then Britain will revert to World Trade Organisation terms, which will mean that the UK would have to pay high tariffs and quotas at a time when the country’s economy is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fresh Momentum injected into the negotiations

According to Reuters, the hour-long video call on Monday between Johnson and the EU Commission’s von Der Leyen, “has injected fresh momentum” into the negotiations, as “people on both sides with knowledge of the conversation,” attested. The “EU inferred from Johnson’s contributions that he is willing to soften his position and European officials told him they are ready to do the same.” After the call, Johnson said: “I don’t think we are actually that far apart -- what we need to see now is a bit of oomph in the negotiations. The faster we can do this the better: we see no reason why you shouldn’t get that done in July.”

Obstacles Remain

Johnson’s latest communication with the EU comes after three months of trade talks which have ended in deadlock. However, things might not be completely resolved just yet, as EU Council President Charles Michel warned that the EU will not “buy a pig in a poke” as it was not in any hurry to reach an agreement. He said: “We won’t just speed up. We have to remain focused on content and consequences.” While the UK has been pushing to speed up the discussions, the EU wants to make reasonable steps, with the next discussions to resume on 29 June. Johnson explained that he is against the talks “going on until the autumn, winter, as perhaps some in Brussels would like.”

Both sides have failed to reach an agreement on a free-trade deal as well as find common ground when it comes to certain EU standards and demands regarding fishing rights and security which the UK believes are binding it to EU rules. Also, the UK continues to refuse to accept the power of the European Court of Justice to settle any disagreements between the two sides.

Pound Remains Unpredictable

With Brexit negotiations in the background, Paul Meggyesi, Head of FX Research at JP Morgan noted that the pound’s trajectory would remain unpredictable. He said: “GBP is liable to become ever-more idiosyncratic as the UK nears the business end of the entire Brexit process, the last six months of the transition period, with still a trade deal to be negotiated. This puts GBP at the mercy of unpredictable Brexit news flows, and investors should be prepared for potentially quite violent swings in GBP as the market tries to benchmark probabilities of the potential outcomes and eventually moves from valuing GBP on a probability-weighted basis to pricing a central scenario and then the eventual outcome itself.”

If you are sending money abroad and are worried about the pound’s volatility, please get in touch with Universal Partners FX. UPFX’s dedicated foreign exchange specialists can help you access the most competitive exchange rates and make your currency transfers stress-free.

The British pound is higher against the Dollar and lower against the euro on Friday, after the release of disappointing data showing that the UK economy contracted more than expected.

The UK GDP monthly release came at -20.4%% MoM in April vs. -18.4% expected, revealing that the economy contracted more-than-expected in April. This is the biggest month-on-month drop in GDP ever recorded and 10 times larger than the sharpest fall before Covid-19. The figures show that the GDP fell by 10.4% in the three months to April as a whole.

The Gross Domestic Product is released by the Office for National Statistics and is a measure of the total value of all goods and services produced by the UK. It is a broad measure of the UK economic activity and, in general, positive news such as a rising trend in economic activity can have positive impact on the pound, while a drop in numbers can be negative. 

The ONS reported that “April 2020 has experienced sharper falls than March as the negative impacts of social distancing and ‘lockdown’ have led to a significant fall in consumer demand and business and factory closures, as well as supply chain disruptions.”

 

Biggest monthly fall in UK history

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK posted the biggest monthly fall in GDP in UK history this past April. The drop represented a 24.5% decline from April 2019, as lockdowns due to Covid-19 hit the economy. 

This week the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that the UK economy would experience the worst damage from Covid-19 compared to any other developed nation. It predicted that GDP would contract by 11.5% in 2020 or 14% if there was a second lockdown due to the return of the virus.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said that the OECD forecast was “deeply worrying” and that this was due to the government’s “failure to get on top of the health crisis, delay going into lockdown and chaotic mismanagement of the exit from lockdown.” 

Rishi Sunak, said the UK economy was similar “with many other economies around the world” and that the government’s intention was to “support people, jobs and businesses through this crisis – and this is what we’ve done.”

 

The OECD explained that “The failure to conclude a trade deal with the European Union by the end of 2020 or put in place alternative arrangements would have a strongly negative effect on trade and jobs.” A no deal Brexit would “significantly damage the UK’s potentially fragile recovery from its deepest recession in almost a century,” credit ratings agency Moody’s warned.

Laurence Boone, the OECD’s chief economist, said the world economy was “walking a tightrope” and that the possibility of a second outbreak could lead to another lockdown and recession. She said: “These scenarios are by no means exhaustive, but they help frame the field of possibilities and sharpen policies to walk such uncharted grounds. Both scenarios are sobering, as economic activity does not and cannot return to normal under these circumstances. By the end of 2021, the loss of income exceeds that of any previous recession over the last 100 years outside wartime, with dire and long-lasting consequences for people, firms and governments.” 

 

With the latest GDP figures, it has been confirmed that the slump in economic activity has been severe. The pound fell against the euro but was not shocked as the disappointing numbers were expected. As Sunak highlighted, the UK is not alone in experiencing the economic contraction due to the lockdown, as global economies are deeply hurt.

If you are sending money abroad and are worried about the pound’s volatility due to the current market conditions, please get in touch with Universal Partners FX. UPFX’s dedicated foreign exchange specialists can help you access the most competitive exchange rates and make your currency transfers stress-free.

 

Universal Partners FX (UPFX) is delivering foreign exchange services, at zero profit to the company, to all organisations bringing in vital COVID-19 equipment. This service is listed by The Crown Commercial Service, the official procurement body. The founders of UPFX, Dhaval Patel and Oliver Carson, introduced the extraordinary measure to give practical support during the current crisis. They are believed to be the only FX Company offering this service.

UPFX has created a special team, who prioritises COVID-19 payments. No fees are added to these transfers and it can mean extending credit limits to facilitate faster transactions.

Many UPFX clients were protected by forward contracts coming into the lockdown, meaning they had certainty over the rates they will pay during this time of high volatility. However, UPFX could see that some were struggling, and this was delaying vital supplies reaching hospitals.

Dhaval Patel, co-Founder and Director of UPFX, explained; “We could see that foreign exchange issues were slowing down the procurement process. Those delays meant that medical teams weren’t getting vital supplies in time (including PPE and hand sanitiser), which could lead to loss of life. 

In addition, with sterling rates moving over 10% in a short space of time, many UK businesses saw increased costs on imports. By forward buying, our clients saved that 10% and that value translated to more vital supplies being available to those on the front-line.”

Pai Skincare, a natural and ethical cosmetics company, created a hand sanitiser especially for coronavirus and have donated 8,000 units. UPFX converted $150,000 and EUR 170,000 for them in March.

Sarah Brown, the Founder of Pai Skincare explained; “We are a global business. There has been so much volatility in the markets with Brexit and now Covid-19. Universal Partners has kindly provided their service at cost during the Covid-19 crisis, as we are providing essential items related to Covid-19.”

JAG UFS, a logistics solutions company, has brought in 10 x 747 aircrafts carrying PPE (including 10 million face masks in each aircraft) to supply NHS Scotland & Wales.

UPFX has been forward buying on $7million for supplier payments.

Gary Wilcox, the CEO of JAG UFS commented; “UPFFX has been instrumental in the PPE deliveries, allowing us to forward buy on currency. During so much uncertainty, they have really added value to our business and to the NHS in Scotland and Wales.”

UPFX has also donated care packages to local hospitals. These include additional hygiene supplies and snacks.

UPFX is renowned for their extraordinary growth. Founded in 2017, they achieved a turnover of £113m during their first year. In 2019 their turnover had grown to £945 million with £2.8 million profit

Oliver Carson, the co-founder of UPFX concluded: “We’ve been extraordinarily successful, and it was time to give back. This virus has affected all our lives, we’re pleased to be able to play our part in the work to fight it.”

Sterling was under pressure after Friday’s British retail sales figures showed that sales fell in March, despite an increase in consumer goods, particularly alcohol.

This was the biggest fall since 1996 when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began recording the figures. As Rhian Murphy, ONS head of retail sales said, “Retail sales saw their biggest monthly fall since records began over 30 years ago with large declines in clothing and fuel, only partially offset by strong food sales. The “retail armageddon” as was described by Ayush Ansal, chief investment officer at hedge fund Crimson Black Capital, was a reflection of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pound has been sensitive to gloomy economic figures but also coronavirus updates, as the foreign exchange market is watching to see how the country deals with the lockdown and how fast it recovers.

UK retail sales: Economists predict further fall in April

Thomas Pugh of Capital Economics noted that the record fall in UK retail sales last month demonstrates that consumption has fallen during the lockdown:

“At one end, there were clear signs the pandemic was keeping consumers away from the high street, non-food sales excluding petrol and online sales were down by 19.4% m/m, with an especially sharp 34.8% m/m fall in clothing sales. And petrol sales declined by 18.9% m/m. Department store sales did rise by 2.8% m/m, but appears to be due to purchases of food and other items online. On the other hand, food & drink sales were up 10.4% m/m (within that alcohol 31.4%!) and online sales (non-department store) rose by 5.9% m/m, as consumers were locked down at home.”

But the fall in March is only the beginning, as economists believe that April will post a bigger fall. Alan Custis, head of UK equities at Lazard Asset Management, says that “the real story will be seen in April’s figures when the lock-down will be fully felt by retailers. Here we expect to see dire numbers, but it must be balanced up by very strong online sales, which we expect will be showing growth in excess of 50% year on year. There have been clear winners and losers and we think this will only become more apparent the longer the crisis continues.”

Consumer confidence at its lowest

Further disappointing stats did nothing to support the pound. On Friday, data from the research company GfK showed that British consumer confidence was at its lowest in April.

The balance of consumers who were considering making major purchases dropped to minus 52 in April, while, the net balance of those expecting their financial situation to improve dropped to minus 14. Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at the consultancy EY Item Club said: “The near-term fundamentals for consumer spending have clearly taken a very substantial downturn as a result of coronavirus. Many people have already lost their jobs, despite the supportive government measures while others will be worried that they may still end up losing their job once the furlough scheme ends.”

Transferring funds?

With the pound struggling due to weak economic data, it is logical that you might be concerned about your personal finances, volatile exchange rates and high fees when transferring your funds. Universal Partners FX can help boost your currency purchasing power by providing in-depth market insight, competitive rates and unparalleled customer service. You can find out more by getting in touch with their dedicated currency specialists or you can request a free quote.

A weakening global investor sentiment and a collapse in oil prices has hurt the pound, but the British currency gained slightly on Wednesday despite news that UK inflation fell in March.

Oil

Brent crude oil lost a further 10% in value and WTI crude 5% on Wednesday. The slump in global oil prices demonstrates the massive drop in activity which hasn’t yet been priced by markets. Later on Wednesday, there was a jump in the price of oil, partly the result of a tweet in which President Donald Trump said  that he had “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

Inflation

After the government’s Covid-19 lockdown measures which hit demand for some goods, inflation figures on Wednesday painted a negative image of things to come, as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 0.2% drop. While this was expected, as consumers spent less on clothing and fuel due to the lockdown, there are concerns that there will be further drops if restrictions continue. The pound could fall further if dire economic data continues, the oil market is further weakened, and investors’ mood drops.

According to the ONS, consumer prices rose by 1.5% per year last month, down from 1.7% in February, which was the lowest since December, as cheaper clothing and fuel pushed inflation down. The ONS explained: “Falls in the price of motor fuels and clothing resulted in the largest downward contributions to the change in the CPIH 12-month inflation rate between February and March 2020. Rises in air fares produced the largest, partially offsetting, upward contribution to change.”

The ONS believes that people avoided shops or stockpiled essential items due to the coronavirus. While the lockdown was officially introduced on 23 March and prices were collected around 17 March, social distancing seems to have shaped consumer behaviours and retailers’ expectations, with less browsing in shops and more time spent indoors.

The inflation report also showed that due to the virus pandemic and failure of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) to agree to cut supply in early March 2020, petrol prices fell by 5.1 pence per litre between February and March 2020.

What did economists say?

The drop in inflation in March is just the beginning and demand will continue to wane. Equals Group chief economist Jeremy Thomson-Cook said: “UK inflation stayed steady at 1.5% in March but the wider picture around prices shows that we will not be talking about high inflation for some time. A recession like the UK is currently enduring – we will wait on the data to confirm – naturally will see lower inflation through the destruction of a demand side to the economy whilst movements in oil markets of late show just what can happen to prices when demand dries up. You cannot have inflation without demand and if we are correct that demand rebounds slower than it fell – a Nike tick-shaped rebound – then the impulse into inflation should be low although a weak pound does remain a risk.”

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at investment platform AJ Bell, says that the drop in oil prices and the change in shoppers’ attitudes will affect inflation: “Even before the recent capitulation, the price of oil was on the slide in March and this dragged inflation down slightly from February’s 1.7% to 1.5%. Oil prices have a massive impact on the UK’s inflation rate and with prices at the pump and home energy costs getting cheaper we’d expect this trend to continue for the next couple of months….What’s more, with retailers having to shut their doors we’re seeing more and more offer discounts to shoppers to move their buying online.”

UPFX

Naturally, the coronavirus has disrupted both individual and businesses’ financial plans. If you are concerned about your foreign exchange transfers and the impact on the pound as we navigate these difficult times, get in touch with Universal Partners FX and their currency specialists. Their in-depth knowledge of markets and expertise in transferring your hard-earned money fast and securely can give you peace of mind and protect your finances from unpredictable rate fluctuations. Get in touch with them today and find out how much you can save when transferring your funds abroad.