The UK’s successful vaccination rollout programme, along with the BoE’s decision not to lower interest rates, have boosted market sentiment about the UK’s speedy economic recovery and pushed the pound higher. The pound is trading almost close to a nine-month high against the euro, and at a 33-month high against the dollar. It is almost getting closer to its highest levels in over three years.

Rabobank’s Jane Foley said: “GBP bulls have been flexing their muscles since the start of the year based on relief about the EU/UK trade deal and on hopes that the relatively rapid vaccine roll-out programme will lead to a fairly fast economic recovery this year.”

Weaker dollar

The pound’s strength is a result of it capitalising on the US dollar’s losses. The prospect of a major new US stimulus package has weakened the dollar, which continued to fall lower after last week’s disappointing US payrolls report. The wider increased confidence has turned investors away from the safe haven dollar and towards riskier assets.

JP Morgan explained that "The broader USD continues to trade with a much softer tone, drivers seem to be the relentless CNH bid into Chinese New Year and the fact that US yields backed aggressively off key levels and have now calmed down." According to JPMorgan, the USD selling by Chinese traders has also push the dollar lower, a move that is highlighting the importance of the Chinese Yuan in broader market movements.

The past three days’ weakness of the dollar shows that the recent dollar rally has come to an end and that the trend of depreciation has come back into play. JP Morgan said: "We added to our modest sterling longs yesterday via GBP/USD and look for this move to keep going at least until the end of the week (Chinese New Year on Friday).”

Quick vaccinations and market optimism

The UK economy might experience its troubles, but the swift pace of vaccinations suggests that economic recovery will be stronger and faster. The vaccination programme will soon impact health outcomes and boost the Bank of England’s positive outlook. If the Bank shows further optimism and investors are upbeat about economic prospects, then the pound will rise higher.

The general positive market sentiment has helped the pound, as it has become linked to risk appetite during the crisis.

With downside risks for Sterling expected and priced in, analysts see further potential for the pound as the vaccination rollout continues strong. As NatWest Markets analysts said, a "quicker pace of vaccine roll-out will likely lend support to Sterling.” However, they expect any pound increases to be short-lived, as the UK economy struggles post-Brexit.

The Bank of England has said that a strong economic rebound is possible once the lockdown restrictions are lifted and consumers start spending again.

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The British Pound has risen following comments by the Bank of England's Governor Andrew Bailey that the rate will not be cut to 0% or below in the coming weeks. With the ongoing vaccine rollout and positive market sentiment about a quick economic recovery, the Bank appears to be willing to wait and see how the UK economy fairs before taking interest rates into negative territory.

Vaccine rollout

The government has promised to vaccinate 15 million people in the top four priority groups over the next five weeks and 17 million more in the five remaining groups by spring. According to the government’s immunisation plan, fifty special vaccination centres will support hospitals and doctors to provide 2 million jabs a week by the end of January.

The inoculation plan was unveiled on Monday as the NHS announced that 866,000 people in England were vaccinated the first week of January. On Monday, seven national vaccination centres opened in England, as well as 200 hospital sites and many GP centres. 50 more special centres will open by the end of the month. Many GPs believe that the 2m-a-week target can be achieved, despite MPs’ complaints in the parliament that the supply was chaotic.

More Vaccinations, Stronger Pound

The more people are vaccinated, the sooner the pandemic will be controlled, and the economy will recover. If everyone is strong and healthy, then the body of the economy and the country will also be strong and healthy. This will ensure a robust economy and will affect whether the Bank of England changes interest rates and its quantitative easing programme. If the BoE chose to lower interest rates, this would have been with the aim of stimulating lending and injecting a flow of money into the economy during the lockdown. However, such drastic measures would have pushed the pound lower. 

The governor of the BoE highlighted that there were too many concerns about negative interest rates, and that members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee debated their possible benefits. He has also warned that negative interest rates may hurt economic recovery and he appeared to be against such a move followed by such countries as Sweden, Denmark and Japan. He said: there are “a lot of issues” when considering using negative interest rates as a fiscal tool: “At first glance they are counter-intuitive.” He added: “First of all, no country has really used negative interest rates at the retail end of the market.”

There is, however, growing speculation after the recent comments by Silvana Tenreyro, a member of the Bank’s rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee, that using negative rates is a possibility and can be done without depriving the banking system. Interest rates have been at a historic low of 0.1% since last March in an attempt to protect the economy from the pandemic. If the possibility of negative interest rates is slowly reduced in the coming weeks, the pound is expected to get a further boost.

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The possibility of the Bank of England pushing interest rates into negative territory has been hinted at by a member of the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee. If interest rates go lower, it is expected that the pound will be negatively impacted in the next few months. The decision to use negative interest rates is considered by the bank as positive in regard to offering further support to a struggling economy.

MPC member Silvana Tenreyro said in an online speech that negative interest rates will boost UK growth and inflation. "Cutting Bank Rate to its record low of 0.1% has helped loosen lending conditions relative to the counterfactual (of no policy change), and I believe further cuts would continue to provide stimulus," Tenreyro noted. Tenreyro said the Bank of England has been in contact with financial services firms discussing the potential impact of negative interest rates. She said: "Once the Bank is satisfied that negative rates are feasible, then the MPC would face a separate decision over whether they are the optimal tool to use to meet the inflation target given circumstances at the time."

How has the pound performed in 2021?

The pound has not enjoyed a good start to the new year, as it dropped against the euro and the dollar. The fact that the UK and EU reached an agreement on Christmas Eve has not made the situation better either, despite the hopes of some economists. Additionally, they are increasing concerns about the economy due to the stricter lockdowns. This has raised expectations of a further interest rate cut by the BoE.

The possibility of lower interest rates will also make UK money markets less attractive, turning investors away from the pound and towards other investments.

What do analysts and traders say?

Analysts expect that the upcoming Bank of England meeting on 4th February will garner a lot of attention, and as we get closer to it there will be growing speculation on the possibility of an interest rate cut.  

The pandemic has not helped either, as many economists believe that it has dampened sentiment towards Sterling and resulted in concerns about a slower economic recovery and a more cautious Bank of England. At the same time, other analysts disagree and do not expect an interest rate cut this February. Robert Wood, UK Economist at Bank of America said: "We do not expect the BoE to cut Bank Rate in February. Banks do not seem ready and some rate setters argue negative rates could be counterproductive when GDP is falling.” If this happens then the pound may rise.

With the pandemic and ongoing vaccinations, it is not yet clear how the UK economy will fair. Nonetheless, the UK government is committed to delivering CovidD-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable categories by mid-February. If everything goes as planned, and people are successfully vaccinated, then the BoE might reassess its plans and reconsider whether cutting interest rates is the best possible solution. If the economy shows signs of recovery, then the pound will respond favourably.

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If you are transferring funds overseas, contacting a currency specialist could save you time and money. Whether you are sending money to family or paying your employees abroad, get in touch with Universal Partners FX to find out how much you can save in your international money transfers. Universal Partners FX can provide invaluable help on efficient risk management and tailored solutions to your personal or business’ transfer needs.

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.


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Sterling has rallied after better than expected forecasts from the Bank of England. The Bank noted that the economic standstill in the period between April and June was “less severe” than anticipated. While the UK economy has considerably shrunk this year due to the Coronavirus, it is now on a path to recovery, slowly picking up again.

Bank of England Monetary Policy Meeting

In its Thursday morning meeting, the Bank decided to keep UK borrowing costs at record lows, interest rates at just 0.1%, and its quantitative easing programme at £745bn.

According to its forecasts, UK recovery will take longer but the slump will be less severe. The Bank said that “the fall in output in Q2 is expected to have been less severe than was assumed in the illustrative scenario in the May Report. In that scenario, it was assumed that restrictions would be gradually unwound between early June and late September, but they were lifted earlier.” In terms of recovery, this will take time:

“In the MPC’s central projection, GDP continues to recover beyond the near term, as social distancing eases and consumer spending picks up further. Business investment also recovers, but somewhat more slowly. Unemployment declines gradually from the beginning of 2021 onwards. Activity is supported by the substantial fiscal and monetary policy actions in place. Nonetheless, the recovery in demand takes time as health concerns drag on activity. GDP is not projected to exceed its level in 2019 Q4 until the end of 2021, in part reflecting persistently weaker supply capacity. Given the scale of the movements in output, as well as the inherent uncertainty over the factors determining the outlook, the evolution of the balance between demand and supply is hard to assess.”

Labour market and employment

The Bank also warned that unemployment will rise sharply by the end of the year. The Bank’s monetary policy committee said:

“Employment appears to have fallen since the Covid-19 outbreak, although this has been very significantly mitigated by the extensive take-up of support from temporary government schemes. Surveys indicate that many workers have already returned to work from furlough, but considerable uncertainty remains about the prospects for employment after those support schemes unwind. In the near term, the unemployment rate is projected to rise materially, to around 7½% by the end of the year, consistent with a material degree of spare capacity.”

The unemployment rate is currently 3.9%, and the government’s furlough scheme is helping employers to keep their staff.

The Monetary Policy Committee highlighted the threat of unemployment, which will remain high next year too. The Bank’s economists said that the “Labour market slack persists over the first half of the forecast period, as unemployment is judged likely to decline only gradually after peaking in Q4. The gradual decline in part reflects an expectation that hiring will pick up relatively slowly, consistent with uncertainty affecting companies’ demand for labour. In addition, the MPC judges that there is likely to be some reduction in the efficiency with which people can find jobs. That tends to happen as unemployment rises, as some people take time to find new jobs, and their skills erode. Moreover, in the present conjuncture, the dispersed effects of Covid-19 on economic activity across sectors are judged to be likely to result in a greater degree of mismatch than usual, given differences between the sectors from which workers have been made unemployed and the sectors in which firms are posting vacancies.”

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday to discuss the Bank’s Monetary Report, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that the forecast that unemployment might almost double to 7.5% is a “very bad story.” But he also said that it will eventually fall back to 4.5% by the end of 2022.

Negative Interest Rates?

The Bank of England said that it is currently considering the possibility of imposing negative interest rates in the UK, as other banks including in Japan and the Eurozone, have done. This means that banks will be charged for leaving money with the central bank, so they are forced to lend them. The Bank is currently deciding whether this will impact on the financial system, economic confidence and bank profits, as well as savers. According to the Bank, “the effectiveness of a negative policy rate will depend, in part, on the structure of the financial system and how the policy transmits through banks to the interest rates facing households and companies. It will also depend on the financial and economic conditions at the time.”


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