Gilt market sell-off continues, keeping pressure on sterling

LONDON (Reuters) - A sell-off in the British government bond market continued on Monday amid political instability jitters, pushing 10-year gilt’s yield to its highest since June’s Brexit vote and pressuring the battered pound.

A bank employee counts pound notes at Kasikornbank in Bangkok, Thailand October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang/File Photo

Sterling’s near-20 percent plunge since the vote to leave the European Union has sent inflation expectations soaring, driving investors to wind back bets on further interest rate cuts and other Bank of England stimulus measures this year.

That plus foreign investor demand for an extra premium for buying gilts was driving up yields, analysts said. Though German Bund and U.S. Treasury yields have also been rising in recent days, the fact that gilt yields have risen at a faster pace reflects investor nervousness.

The benchmark 10-year gilt yield was at 1.13 percent by 1600 GMT, up around 3 basis points on the day, having risen to 1.223 percent earlier on Monday’s nervousness.

“There’s been a shift in dynamic since the start of October that’s very unusual for a G10 currency, particularly for sterling, where higher yields are corresponding with a weaker currency,” said BNP Paribas currency strategist Sam Lynton-Brown.

“At the moment rather than higher yields driving sterling, you had a weaker pound driving higher inflation expectations, in turn driving a steeper and higher UK rates curve.”

Halfway through October, the 10-year gilt yield is on track for one of the biggest monthly increases since the financial crisis, up 37 basis points since the end of September.

Most of the increase this month reflects expectations of higher inflation, with conventional bond yields rising fast but inflation-protected bonds less so. In the last few days though, inflation-protected bond prices have lost ground too.

“That does hint that there’s a bit more of a risk premium being put into gilts overall than there was before,” said Jason Simpson, strategist at Societe Generale.

Gilt yields have increased despite the BoE purchasing bonds worth about 14 billion pounds a month. But because the market had anticipated a further expansion of monetary policy - which now looks unlikely this year - yields have surged back as these expectations unwound.

Societe Generale’s Simpson added that money markets now priced in only about a 10 percent chance of an interest rate cut in November.


Inflation figures on Tuesday mark the next major event. Economists expect that consumer prices rose by 0.9 percent in the year to September, up from 0.6 percent in August.

Inflation is expected to rise above 2 percent in 2017 because of a sharp fall in the value of the pound.

At the same time, the economy is expected to slow as Britain begins the process of leaving the EU and tries to negotiate new trade deals, leaving the economy facing a potentially toxic mix of a tumbling currency, rising yields, accelerating inflation and sluggish growth.

BoE Governor Mark Carney told a public meeting on Friday that he was willing to allow inflation to run “a bit” higher than the central bank’s 2-percent target to help employment and allow Britain’s economy to grow.

Nonetheless, sterling fell to $1.2165, having lost 6 percent in the past two weeks alone, after Prime Minister Theresa May raised the spectre of a “hard” Brexit, where the government will negotiate for an exit that favours tighter immigration controls over free trade.

Against the euro the pound fell 0.2 percent to 90.25 pence.

Trade-weighted sterling was at 73.8, not far from a record low of 73.4 struck last week.

Writing by Anirban Nag and Jemima Kelly; Editing by Tom Heneghan