Pound at risk as UK prepares Brexit details

LONDON • Brexit may dominate factors influencing the pound’s fortunes again this week, with the UK set to lay out its position in at least three areas of negotiation with the European Union (EU).

Uncertainty about the next round of Britain-EU talks due  by month-end could weigh on sterling, which was the worst- performing Group-of-10 currency last week. The UK is  said to be preparing to publish today details on how it will treat confidential EU information obtained before Brexit and on goods placed on supply chains in the EU single market.

While more information on the government’s plans is a “favourable development”, sterling could be stuck as “there’s a number of potholes on the road forward in negotiations”, said Lee Hardman, foreign-exchange (forex) strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in London. “The market is still very cautious and uncertain on what the final outcome will be.”

The pound was at US$1.286 (RM5.52) as of 5:50pm in London last Friday, having slid more than 2% in three weeks. Sterling was at 91.36 pence (RM5.06) to the euro, having reached 91.5 pence earlier, its weakest level in 10 months.

Currency markets will also focus on a gathering of top  central bankers in Wyoming  for their annual policy summit at Jackson Hole between Aug  24 and 26. US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen and European  Central Bank president Mario Draghi are scheduled to speak.

Recent UK economic reports provided little support to sterling, with underlying trends in last week’s retail and labour data signalling that wages weren’t keeping up with inflation. Gross domestic product readings on Aug 24 will be closely watched to see how recent data have fed into second-quarter growth.

The Citigroup Economic  Surprise Index for the UK reached a five-year low of minus 51.9 last week. The gauge has remained under the zero mark, which denotes that economic data have been missing estimates, since May.

Strategists at HSBC Holdings plc, including Daragh Maher, recommend selling the pound against the dollar at current le- vels with a target of US$1.251. A swift decline toward US$1.26 “would likely rejuvenate the notion that pound is also suffe- ring from political risk. The probability of a hard Brexit or no deal increases the longer there is little progress in the UK-EU negotiations”, they wrote in a note dated Aug 17.

“The UK is releasing position papers but it remains to be seen whether UK aspirations will be acceptable to the EU,” they wrote. “The forex market may have pushed politics into the background, but it has not  disappeared.” — Bloomberg