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.”

 

Transferring funds abroad?

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that “There are some very hard yards, to borrow a rugby phrase, to come. And frankly, we are ready to act, should that be needed.” If you feel the same and you are ready to act, then get in touch with Universal Partners FX. Whether you are transferring funds overseas to family or for a new property, then Universal Partners FX team can help you access the most competitive exchange rates and make your stress-free.

The pound has risen against the dollar, as July has been the best month for Sterling in more than a decade, partly due to the dollar’s weakness. On Friday, the pound was at its highest level in almost five months. Positive news on Monday, also offered support to the pound which was also the best performing major currency of the past week, a result of better than expected economic data, global stock market recovery and expectations for a Brexit trade deal being agreed by October.

On Monday, the release of manufacturing PMI for July showed that the UK’s manufacturing sector continued its rebound in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with new orders growing at the fastest pace since late 2018.

UK Factory Output

UK factories increased production at the fastest rate in nearly three years in July, as plants reopened after the Covid-19 lockdown. The headline manufacturing PMI from IHS Markit and CIPS rose to 53.3 in July in the final reading, the highest reading since March 2019. The flash estimate was 53.6 and June’s 50.1. The output component was up at 59.3, the highest since November 2017. PMIs are an indicator of private sector activity and are given on a scale of 1 to 100. Anything above 50 signals growth, while anything below means contraction.

Signs of an economic recovery improved manufacturers’ sentiment, with confidence rising to its highest since March 2018. 62% of companies are now expecting production to be higher in 2021 and only 12% of firms are predicting a contraction. Sentiment strengthened across the consumer, intermediate and investment goods industries.

In terms of manufacturing employment, job cuts were linked to redundancies, natural wastage and aligning capacity with current manufacturing needs. Purchasing activity was increased but supply-chain disruption continued.  

Will pound remain steady this week? Thursday’s BoE policy meeting

The main event for Sterling this week will be Thursday's Bank of England policy meeting. At the June meeting, the BOE’s monetary policy committee kept the Bank rate at 0.1% but added £100bn into the economy by increasing its quantitative easing (QE) programme to £745bn. At the meeting on Thursday, it is expected that interest rates will be kept unchanged and markets will be watching for any signals as to whether quantitative easing will be expanded.

If the Monetary Policy Committee is optimistic about the economic outlook, Sterling could be supported. Asmara Jamaleh, Economist at Intesa Sanpaolo said: "Expectations are for unchanged rates and QE, although a potential display of openness to further monetary stimulus soon should weaken the pound, especially if the negative rate option is mentioned. An expansion of QE would have a smaller impact.”

Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, says:

“Our expectation is that the votes on both the policy rate and QE will be unanimous in favour of ‘no change’. But we expect the speed of gilt buying to be reined back further. The Bank of England is due to announce the reverse gilt auction sizes beyond 6 August and has hinted that the programme will run more or less to the end of the year. This suggests a weekly gilt purchase rate somewhere close to £4bn per week in order to meet the total £745bn target at that point. In trying to gauge the policy stance further ahead, we expect the committee to note that the economy has enjoyed further recovery momentum recently ... Welcome though this is, it of course reflects the response to the gradual unwinding of the lockdown. What is more critical is how the economy looks towards the end of the year as, for example, the CJRS (furlough scheme) expires. Moreover members will also note the signs of higher coronavirus infection rates on Continental Europe, in the US and to an extent the UK. The MPC’s assessment of the current indicators will probably be one of guarded optimism, but tempered strongly by the risks facing the economy further ahead. We think there is a strong chance that the committee sanctions a further £75bn- £100bn of QE in November.”

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The British Pound has remained under pressure on Friday, especially after Thursday’s losses due to disappointing news that the Brexit negotiations have hit an impasse. Today’s (24/07/2020) better than expected retail sales did not help push the pound higher against its major rivals.

Brexit and Covid-19

Despite positive macroeconomic data, the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about the state of the Brexit trade negotiations have weighed on the pound. As the Guardian reported, on Friday morning the release of “the retail figures are doing little to support UK stocks with the FTSE 100 down 1.36% and the more domestically focused FTSE 350 down 0.6%.”

Positive Retail Sales’ Numbers

The easing of lockdown in mid-June helped UK retail sales beat forecasts in June. The Office for National Statistics has reported a 13.9% month-on-month rise in UK retail sales last month, marking an 8% uptick. Even for former Bank of England policymaker Andrew Sentence, the figures highlighted that the UK was on its recovery since the Covid-19 outbreak. The retail sales’ increase was the result of consumers spending for DIY and home improvement products due to the lockdown, with shops selling hardware, furniture and appliances doing particularly well, and reaching near-pre-lockdown sale levels.

With the easing of lockdown measures, consumers preferred real physical shops rather than online shopping, as the ONS noted that the proportion of online sales retreated from its record peak in May. Online spending, however, remained at 31.8%, higher than February’s 20%. UK total retail sales are now just 0.6% lower than February before the lockdown.

ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said:

“Retail continued to recover from the sharp falls seen in April, with overall sales now almost back to pre-pandemic levels. But there are some dramatic differences in sales across the retail industry. Food sales continue above their pre-pandemic levels due to the closure of cafes, restaurants and pubs. Online sales have risen to record levels, and now count for £3 in every £10 spent. On the other hand, clothing sales remain depressed and across the high street sales in non-food stores are down by around one-third on pre-pandemic levels. The latest three months as a whole still saw the weakest quarterly growth on record.”

With the exclusion of fuel sales, due to the lockdown and limited travelling, the level of sales was 2.4% higher than in February. According to figures, Britain’s economy shrank by more than a quarter in March and April and recovered slightly in May.

Is the UK economy recovering?

Former Bank of England policymaker Andrew Sentence said that the figures highlighted the UK was on its recovery since the Covid-19 outbreak. The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has also pointed to a V-shaped recovery with the economy growing by around 1% a week, something that many of his colleagues have questioned. The British Retail Consortium said that spending among large high-street chains was 3.4% higher this June than last year.

As investors await the release of more figures to confirm expectations of a sustained economic recovery, the pound will remain under stress with Brexit as well as the growing number of deaths from Covid-19. If you are buying a home overseas or want to transfer funds to family and friends living abroad, get in touch with our friendly  Universal Partners FX team. 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 pushed higher after investor sentiment improved due to the positive news that a deal between EU leaders have been reached. The euro also rose higher. The deal includes €1.8tn in spending, with a €750bn rescue fund to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. €390bn out of the €750bn will be made in grants.

Brexit trade negotiations a key driver for the pound

However, Sterling continues to remain under pressure as Brexit developments can thwart sentiment, while any updates from the Bank of England in relation to negative interest rates can also create further concerns.

Brexit negotiations will take place from Tuesday to Thursday and will cover such issues as trade in goods, fisheries, energy, transport and participation in certain EU programmes. The round will end with a plenary session on Thursday. The Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier will hold a press conference and investors will be watching to see any signs of progress regarding the latest round of EU-UK trade negotiations which will significantly boost Sterling.

Brexit trade deal and Tory rebellion

Boris Johnson faces a rebellion from Tories who want to pass an amendment to the Trade Bill that will allow the House of Commons and House of Lords to vote for a trade deal agreed between the UK and any other country.

After Brexit, the UK will need to renegotiate trade deals, something that has been celebrated by Brexiteers and criticised by Remainers. For many, such trade deals with countries like the US will sacrifice certain standards that were followed while the UK was under European legislation. After leaving the European Union at the end of this year, Britain will need to be extremely cautious when striking new deals that will be beneficial to its people rather than meeting the demands of political agendas. The government’s reluctance to allow its lawmakers and the people’s representatives to have a say in the negotiations, goes against its own promise of taking back control from Europe and giving it back to the UK people. Additionally, it denies any scrutiny and seeks to pass deals without a dialogue, enforcing laws that could have repercussions on the social and political lives of its citizens for years to come.

Post-Brexit trade talks on a standstill

EU officers have complained that trade talks have been “going round in circles”, and Downing Street said that “significant differences remain on a number of important issues.” This is what is also expected to be reiterated on Thursday when Barnier appears at the press conference, as both sides are anticipating a stalemate.

Another round of talks will begin the week of August 17, but Germany said that it won’t begin to focus on the negotiations until September.

Boris Johnson does not want talks to “drag on into the autumn”, but he will need to make some concessions to see any movement forward. “We’re waiting for the UK to move,” an EU official has said according to the Financial Times. Johnson has talked of trading with the EU like Australia, but he would need to secure a trade deal that will eventually confirm his competency as a Prime Minister and avoid a disorderly Brexit that could lead to calls for Scottish Independence.

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Sterling fell to a one-week low against the dollar on Tuesday following the release of disappointing data confirming that British economic recovery will be slow.

Neil Wilson of Markets.com said that “Sterling extended a selloff after the GDP numbers disappointed”: “The UK is already seeing what a non-V recovery looks like. GDP growth rebounded 1.8% in May, which was well short of the 5.5% expected. In the three months to May, the economy contracted by 19.1%. Some of the numbers are truly horrendous and it’s hard to see how the economy can deliver the +20% rebound required to get back to 2019 with confidence sapped like it is and unemployment set to rise sharply.”

GDP numbers

The Office for National Statistics reported that the Gross domestic product rose by 1.8% in May after falling 20.3% in April, and a 6.9% in March. This was due to the reopening of businesses with factories and construction workers returning to work. Britain’s manufacturers increased their output by 8.4% while the construction sector grew by 8.2%.

However, City economists forecast a 5.5% rise in growth for May. Additionally, the last quarter, the economic slowdown has been worse than expected. The data today shows that the UK economy contracted by 19.1% in the March-May quarter.

Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics, says: “Manufacturing and house building showed signs of recovery as some businesses saw staff return to work. Despite this, the economy was still a quarter smaller in May than in February, before the full effects of the pandemic struck. In the important services sector, we saw some pickup in retail, which saw record online sales. However, with lockdown restrictions remaining in place, many other services remained in the doldrums, with a number of areas seeing further declines.”

Services sector disappoints

The services sector fell by 18.9% in the last quarter and production shrank by 15.5%, according to the ONS. There was a 37.8% fall in education and a 31.4% drop in health output. Food and beverage service activities contracted by 69.3%. Manufacturing output fell 18.0% in March-May and the transport equipment manufacturing dropped by 45.7%.

Economists

Jeremy Thomson-Cook, Chief Economist at Equals PLC, said that that there are few signs of the UK economy recovering quickly: “May’s run of GDP, industrial production and services sector activity confirms that it’s easier to fall down a lift shaft than walk up a flight of stairs and the ongoing economic recovery will need many more months before any vague sense of normality is restored. There are few signs that the UK economy is close to anything resembling a v-shaped recovery although we expect that June’s data will be better than May’s which have shown little more than a false dawn.”

James Smith, Research Director of the Resolution Foundation, says that economic recovery from the Covid-19 has started: “Today’s data tells us that the UK economy started to recover as lockdown restrictions were eased in May. But what would normally be seen as strong growth in May of 1.8 per cent mainly reflects the depth of the lockdown’s economic damage, rather than a swift or V-shaped recovery. The economy was still just three-quarters of the size it was as recently as February. While we should expect strong immediate bounce backs in many sectors, such as retail which grew by 12 per cent in May, what recovery we actually see from here will depend on how people respond to the easing of restrictions and, crucially, the course of the public health crisis. Ultimately, the UK economy is unlikely to return to close to its pre-covid economic path until a vaccine or treatment is found.”

Indeed, the figures are dire and the challenge great. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said that the numbers “underline the scale of the challenge we face. I know people are worried about the security of their jobs and incomes. That’s why I set out our Plan for Jobs last week, following the PM’s new deal for Britain, to protect, support and create jobs as we safely reopen our economy. Our clear plan invests up to £30bn in significant and targeted support to put people’s livelihoods at the centre of our national renewal as we emerge through the other side of this crisis.”

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The British Pound could strengthen against the Euro and Dollar in the coming weeks if economic data continues to beat expectations, according to the latest projections by economists. But, analysts at Bank of America have told clients on Tuesday that Sterling was more like an emerging market currency. Lead analyst Kamal Sharma said that the currency’s movements the last four years since the UK Brexit referendum have been “neurotic at best, unfathomable at worst.”

Pound: An emerging market currency

It is not the first time that the pound has been described as an emerging market currency. Last year, in September, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said that Brexit-related volatility had made the pound act like an emerging market currency.

According to this week’s reports, “Sterling’s spreads and implied volatility – the future range investors expect GBP to move in – remain far wider than other major world currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, euro or Japanese yen, and resemble something closer to the Mexican peso.” Brexit uncertainty and the possibility of negative interest rates have hurt investor sentiment, BoA analysts said.

Better than expected data could offer support for Sterling

But Pound Sterling Live stated that if UK economic data continues to come in better than expected the pound will be supported. It did note, however, that “those looking for a stronger Sterling will continue to have to exercise patience in the near-term.”

With recent economic figures beating expectations and markets underestimating how quick the UK’s economic recovery will be, there is a “decisive shift in momentum.” Tuesday’s PMI data for June were better than expected with the Markit/CIPS Manufacturing PMI at 50.1, the Services PMI at 47, and the Composite PMI at 47.6, all above forecasts.

According to analyst at DNB Markets Kjersti Haugland, things are even more positive as there is a significant rebound of the economy. He said: "A literal interpretation of the figures suggests that manufacturing activity stabilised in June while service sector activity fell further, as a reading below 50 indicates a contraction compared to the previous month. However, some of the respondents may make a pre-Covid-19 comparison instead. Therefore, the sharp increase in June suggests activity is picking up quicker than expected.”

The British Pound does well when the UK economy is growing, unlike the US Dollar which strengthens when the economy is in decline due to its safe haven status. So, if the UK economy continues to grow and economic data comes out stronger than expected, then the pound will find support. This coupled with an easing of lockdown restrictions and the opening of businesses will help the economy recover. As the PM Boris Johnson announced on the 23 June, pubs and restaurants, campsites, hotels and holiday homes will reopen on 4 July. Other businesses such as spas, nail bars, casinos and swimming pools will remain closed.

However, a stronger Pound might be a distant possibility for now, as Sterling was the worst performing currency the past month out of the G10 and was “near the bottom of the pack which reflects a short- to medium-term trend is in place against many major currencies and this will prove tough to crack.”

 

With Brexit uncertainty to continue due to the ongoing negotiations and the harsh stance of the Bank of England both on quantitative easing and interest rates, the pound will remain volatile.

If you are a business sending money abroad or an individual transferring your funds 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 transfer your funds safely and maximise the value of your money.

The latest release of the UK inflation figures has failed to provide a boost to the pound. Despite the recent Brexit optimism, the pound did not rise further after the latest inflation figures which came in line with expectations.

The GBP did not react to the news that inflation fell to 0.5% during May as it was expected. Sterling’s upside is also considered to be limited as traders are expected to remain cautious ahead of the latest monetary policy update by the Bank of England on Thursday. The BoE is expected to keep rates at 0.1% and increase its quantitative easing programme by £100bn.

UK CPI

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK consumer price inflation eased for the fourth consecutive month in May, coming at an annual rate of 0.5%, meeting expectations. Inflation has fallen after a record fall in fuel prices which dragged the UK's inflation rate down. This was due to the lockdown as May was the second full month of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions. This was the lowest annual rate recorded since the Brexit referendum vote in June 2016.

Economists said that this will inevitably add to the discussions of whether the Bank of England will likely take Bank rates into negative territory.

ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said: “The growth in consumer prices again slowed to the lowest annual rate in four years. The cost of games and toys fell back from last month’s rises, while there was a continued drop in prices at the pump in May, following the huge crude price falls seen in recent months. Outside these areas, we are seeing few significant changes to the prices in the shops.”

Rising prices for food and non-alcoholic drinks helped offset the pressure from the falling oil and petrol prices in May.

What economists say

Economist James Smith explained that the UK inflation will stay below 1% this year:

“The other argument that is often made in favour of inflation returning, is that governments and central banks are pumping vast amounts of cash into the system. But this is unlikely to lead to higher prices, at least in the short/medium-term. In the case of the government, its spending has so far been solely aimed at keeping firms and consumers afloat, rather than trying to stimulate demand (which by definition, is constrained by the ongoing lockdown measures). The bottom line is that inflationary pressures are likely to remain fairly muted for the time being. This, in turn, will keep the pressure on the Bank of England to maintain its current degree of stimulus, and we expect a further £150 billion of QE to be unveiled this week.”

Chief UK economist at Capital Economics, Paul Dales, also said that "May's further fall in inflation is probably only the beginnings of a prolonged period of very soft price pressure." This he clarified, will drive MPC members to ask for more stimulus to boost the economy on the BoE’s policy meeting on Thursday.

For many businesses and consumers, the year ahead appears to be a very tough one, with more pressure on households. Businesses and employers have been hurt, and there is generally pessimism about the status of the UK economy due to the coronavirus and a possible second wave of Covid-19 cases.

If you are a business 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 transfer your funds safely, pay employees and maximise the value of your money.

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.

On Wednesday (03/06/20), the Euro was up against the US dollar, marking its seventh consecutive day and the “longest winning streak since December 2013.” The euro’s surge is the result of investors moving away from the US dollar as well as news that the European Commission will be helping the Eurozone economy with a 750 billion euro ($826.5 billion) fund to ease the damage from the pandemic.

The Euro had a roller coaster ride the last few years. Recently, due to slower economic growth, the Euro has dropped, but there have been signs of increase as the Covid-19 pandemic hit financial markets and investors turned towards the safety of government bonds. But soon it fell again, as investors turned to safe-haven assets such as the US dollar. Since mid-March, the euro has been at its highest after the significant decrease of new coronavirus cases in the EU.

With the continued uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Brexit negotiations, the Euro will remain sensitive. But let’s see what the main drivers of the euro in the coming months are.

Key Drivers of the Euro

Apart from the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit updates, the Euro is sensitive to releases of macroeconomic data including GDP, unemployment rates, manufacturing and services output and consumer price indices which measure the Eurozone economy’s health. Significant events such as meetings of the European Central Bank (ECB) and updates regarding policy on interest rates and fiscal stimulus, can also impact on the single currency. For example, low interest rates are unattractive to investors.

If the US Dollar rises, as the US economy strengthens and interest rates are increased by the Federal Reserve, then this will weigh on the Euro. There are also dangers from weaker global growth and a slowing of the EU member states’ economies, especially the German economy.

Last but not least, if the Chinese economy slows and China’s trade is reduced, then there will be less demand for European imports.

European Commission forecast for the Eurozone economy

In its Spring 2020 Economic Forecast, the European Commission reported that the coronavirus pandemic will have “very severe socio-economic consequences” for the global and EU economies. It has forecast that “the euro area economy will contract by a record 7¾% in 2020 and grow by 6¼% in 2021. The EU economy is forecast to contract by 7½% in 2020 and grow by around 6% in 2021. Growth projections for the EU and euro area have been revised down by around nine percentage points compared to the Autumn 2019 Economic Forecast.”

Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, said: “Europe is experiencing an economic shock without precedent since the Great Depression. Both the depth of the recession and the strength of recovery will be uneven, conditioned by the speed at which lockdowns can be lifted, the importance of services like tourism in each economy and by each country's financial resources. Such divergence poses a threat to the single market and the euro area - yet it can be mitigated through decisive, joint European action. We must rise to this challenge.”

Economists’ Predictions in the near- and long-term

According to Citibank, “Second waves of crisis, trade wars and the ECB’s future reaction will likely keep EUR soft near term and upside capped medium term despite a lot of bad news in the price.”

In the long-term, analysts at CIBC expect the Euro to rise: “While euro sentiment remains compromised by the lack of political coherence, we’ve seen the ECB taking action by expanding its balance sheet. However, that move has been dwarfed by the additional supply of USD currently being injected into the market, which remains supportive for the EUR/USD pair.” They added that positive fund flows as a result of the Eurozone current account surplus will benefit the euro, despite political uncertainty.

Natixis Research expects Eurozone inflation to return in 2021 due to the “decline in productivity and the increase in unit production costs due to the new health standards taken because of the coronavirus pandemic.” In turn, the increase in inflation will lead to a rise in long-term interest rates which will support the euro.

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