FX Update – GBP loses its Johnson Jump


Sterling posted fresh correction lows against the Dollar and Euro, among other currencies. Cable printed a six-day low at 1.3070, and EURGBP a two-week high at 0.8517. This follows UK Prime Minister Johnson’s revival of the no-deal Brexit threat yesterday, by pledging to modify the EU withdrawal agreement so that it legislates against any extension in the post-Brexit transition period beyond 2020. I doubt he’s serious, and such legislation could easily be reversed at will, given Johnson’s commanding parliamentary majority. His aim is clearly to strengthen his government’s negotiation hand with the EU, by arming it with a “walk away” option during upcoming negotiations for a new trade deal. He has no doubt concluded that he got agreement on the new Withdrawal agreement under a pressing timescale and both parties agreed compromises to push the October 12 document through.

What is clear is that a new trade deal should be able to be drawn up relatively quickly, though the 11 months still looks to be a tall order (witness the 17 months it took for the US and China to come up with a partial revision in the two’s trading terms). Unlike all of the other negotiations the EU has to date had with other nations and trading blocs, where they were starting a long way apart (totally different tariffs, quotas and systems), the UK and EU have 100% common features.

A fillip for Johnson was that all the ratings agencies are now more optimistic on the UK after the election. Both S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings improved their assessment of the UK’s credit outlook after Johnson’s Conservative Party won a majority in last week’s election. S&P changed the country outlook to stable from negative, with analysts seeing a diminished risk of a no-deal Brexit. Analysts at S&P said “Despite the government’s current stance, we expect that the UK will seek, and the EU will grant, an extension beyond December 2020 to negotiate the future relationship between the two.” Fitch meanwhile affirmed the AA rating and took the UK off Rating Watch Negative, thus removing the immediate threat of a downgrade, but the rating agency did maintain the negative outlook. S&P affirmed its credit rating of AA/A-1+. Fitch held the country at AA.

Elsewhere, EURCHF carved out a one-week low at 1.0912, though USDCHF managed to hold above the four-month low seen yesterday. EURUSD drifted lower after closing in New York yesterday just above 1.1100, and matched yesterday’s low at 1.1129. USDJPY edged out a two-day low at 109.41, which was lower mark of a 15-pip range. AUDUSD traded moderately softer, though remained above yesterday’s one-week at 0.6838, which was seen in the wake of the release of RBA minutes from the early-December policy, which showed that policymakers are open for a possible further cut in the cash rate at the next meeting in February.

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Stuart Cowell

Head Market Analyst

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