ETF Securities Research Blog

The view from the back of the queue – GBP in focus

The British Pound is plumbing 30-year lows against the US Dollar, after the shock of the EU Referendum result. GBP/USD has plunged around 11% since the EU Referendum vote, highlighting the mistaken expectations of financial markets. Uncertainty means elevated market volatility in coming weeks, with investors likely to remain defensive in their portfolio allocations in FX markets.Unsurprisingly, GBP is exhibiting the highest implied volatility in the G10. Options markets are indicating that Sterling is expected to weaken against all currencies in coming weeks.

The decision to leave the EU not only puts in question the UK’s relationship with the EU, but with trading partners globally. Only last month US President Obama indicated the UK would move ‘to the back of the queue’ in terms of trade negotiations. The final structure of an EU agreement will be determined by the upcoming withdrawal negotiations. Any protectionist tendencies from the EU are likely to have a relatively immediate adverse impact on costs and growth of the UK economy. Economic and political uncertainty will have a permanent negative impact on the domestic UK economy, as businesses postpone investment and employment activities. Softer economic numbers could begin to flow through in late 2016 and 2017.

Political uncertainty surrounding the Conservative party leadership is also keeping investors on edge. The new leadership for the Conservative party is expected to begin the EU withdrawal process for the UK. Market confidence is only likely to return with greater clarity over the timing and structure of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

We expect a flattening of the Gilt curve, as concern over the implications of the EU referendum for UK growth weigh on inflationary expectations. Lower long-end yields are likely to keep GBP under pressure and we expect the US Dollar and Yen to remain well bid in the near term, as volatility remains elevated. In the medium term, falling inflationary expectations is likely to put pressure on the Bank of England to take further stimulatory action, another negative for GBP.