Sterling rises 0.5% versus weaker dollar; flat versus euro

LONDON (Reuters) - The pound rose around half a percent against a weaker dollar on Thursday, but was little changed against the euro, as Brexit-related risks and speculation about negative interest rates continue to limit the pound’s gains.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. dollar and British pound notes are seen in this November 7, 2016 picture illustration. Picture taken November 7. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The safe-haven dollar fell to a near two-month low as global risk appetite was boosted by investors’ optimism about economies re-opening. A 750-billion-euro stimulus plan in Europe lifted regional stock indices and the euro.

The pound gained as much as 0.6% against the dollar, reaching $1.2335 at 1455 GMT. It was last at $1.2314, up around 0.4%.

Versus the euro, the pound was broadly flat, at 89.75 pence.

Before coronavirus, the last time cable was this low was in early October, when markets feared a no-deal Brexit was imminent.

The market has turned increasingly short on sterling for the last 11 weeks straight, according to weekly futures data.

“Sterling’s only support is the size of the short positions, and thin month-end markets magnify that support, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals,” Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes wrote in a note to clients.

The pound is being held down by several factors: a lack of progress in EU trade talks, speculation about negative interest rates in Britain, a deep recession and a growing pile of debt.

Sterling fell 1% on Wednesday after Britain told the European Union on Wednesday it needed to break a fundamental impasse to clinch a Brexit trade deal by the end of the year.

For a graphic on Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote:


Britain has the worst COVID-19 death toll in Europe. A COVID-19 test and trace service began in England on Thursday to allow the loosening of lockdown measures for most of the population.

But nearly half of businesses in Britain that have temporarily suspended their operations because of the coronavirus lockdown are unsure when they will re-open.

Britain’s economy is unlikely to recover fully from the “searing experience” of the coronavirus in the next two to three years, the Bank of England’s Michael Saunders warned on Thursday, in the gloomiest medium-term assessment to date from a UK policymaker.

Saunders also said he would not necessarily rule out negative rates, and that too much stimulus was better than too little.

“The question whether the BoE key rate is slightly above or below zero does not really matter,” Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of FX and commodity research at Commerzbank wrote in a note to clients.

“Monetary policy in the UK - just like almost everywhere else in the world - has pretty much reached the end of the line.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Larry King and Alison Williams