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Markets

Sterling slips versus dollar; speculators' net long position increases

  • "Sterling is benefiting mostly from the vaccine race - it's really the main differentiator," said Ned Rumpeltin, head of European currency strategy at TD Securities.
  • The pound was down around 0.4% against a stronger dollar at $1.3686.
08 Feb, 2021

LONDON: The pound slipped against a stronger dollar on Monday, but analysts were bullish about its outlook and the latest positioning data showed the speculative long position on the British currency had increased.

The pound has strengthened against both the dollar and euro in February, boosted by heightened risk appetite in global markets, optimism surrounding the UK's COVID-19 vaccine rollout and a lessening of negative rates expectations.

Britain has injected over 12 million first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and is on track to meet a target to vaccinate everyone in the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.

"Sterling is benefiting mostly from the vaccine race - it's really the main differentiator," said Ned Rumpeltin, head of European currency strategy at TD Securities.

"It's kind of run out of steam here, just below $1.37," he said, noting that the pound has struggled to break above that level since 2018.

At 1206 GMT, the pound was down around 0.4% against a stronger dollar at $1.3686.

Versus the euro, it was down around 0.2% at 87.92 pence per euro.

The Bank of England reported the findings of its consultation with banks about the feasibility of implementing negative rates last week.

Banks told the BoE that they would need at least six months to work out how to respond to negative rates - prompting the pound to rise as investors scaled back any expectations of the policy being introduced.

Negative rates are "unlikely to happen over the next 6 months due to operational risks, while the need to go negative after the 6-month period will be rather low as we expect a strong 2Q economic recovery", ING FX strategists Francesco Pesole and Petr Krpata wrote in a note to clients.

"Coupled with the fast vaccination, GBP is set to benefit and GBP/USD to grind slowly higher next week," they said. They expect cable to move towards $1.50 by the end of the year.

Speculators' net long position on the pound got bigger in the week to Feb. 2, according to weekly CFTC futures data. The market has been net bullish on the pound since early December 2020, with the UK's relative success in vaccine rollouts helping to improve sentiment.

South Africa halted the rollout of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccinations after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection from one variant, but Britain said the shot still stopped death and serious illness.

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