The pound fell following disappointing retail sales and a drop in the GfK Consumer Confidence survey, but reversed losses after the release of better-than-expected Preliminary PMI data for October.
The Markit/CIPS Manufacturing PMI for October came at 57.7, higher than the expected 55.8. The Services PMI also came at 58, higher than the 54.5 forecast and September’s reading of 55.4. The Composite PMI came in at 56.8, also above the forecast of 54 and the previous month's 54. IHS Markit’s Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson said that the flash PMI data was higher than the average of 54.0 before the pandemic and showed that the GDP grew each quarter 0.7%.
Markit reported that activity increased as the private sector growth reached a three-month high, with strong business and consumer spending. Service providers were the main driver behind the recovery. Employment numbers also rose as improved customer demand and confidence about the business outlook strengthened. Pressures from higher costs and staff shortages will however persist.
Earlier on Friday, the ONS reported that UK retail sales fell in September. The pound dropped following the disappointing news, as it was shown that the economic slowdown might be worse than expected. Retail sales for September were down 2.6% year-on-year, lower than the expected 1.7%.
Even as we move into the Christmas period, higher gas prices will keep operating costs high and reduce consumer spending power.
November interest rate hike
The pound will also be at risk from the Bank of England disappointing markets and not proceeding as expected with the interest rate hikes. The markets now see a November interest rate hike (from 0.1% to 0.25%), as a 56% possibility, which is down from 90% earlier this week, after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey suggested the BoE will have to act to control inflationary pressures.
BoE chief economist Huw Pill told the Financial Times that the Bank would have a "live" decision to make at its next meeting on the 4 November. While he declined to say how he would vote at the Bank’s meeting next month, he said "it is finely balanced": "I think November is live."
The UK interest rate has been at a historic low of 0.1% since March 2020. The view that November’s meeting is “finely balanced” may have encouraged traders to reconsider the odds of action next month.
GfK Consumer Confidence survey
Consumer confidence was also down in October, at its lowest since February. Consumers are concerned with the future of the economy. The possibility of a cold winter coming while dealing with fuel and food shortages, Brexit and surging inflation, as well as interest rates affecting the cost of borrowing, not to mention Covid-19 cases rising, does not sound especially promising. The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) has said that all-time highs seen in April 2012 of 142p per litre for petrol and 148p for diesel will be surpassed by the end of October. Average prices for petrol and diesel had reached 141.35p and 144.84p respectively on Tuesday, according to Experian Catalist UK.
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