By Dow Jones Business News,
August 13, 2014, 10:25:00 AM EDT
By Josie Cox and Katie Martin
The Bank of England knocked some of the froth off the perky pound Wednesday.
Sterling sank sharply against other major currencies, shedding a cent against the dollar to reach its lowest point
in two months and suffering a similar dip against the euro, after the central bank hinted in its quarterly Inflation
Report that drab wage growth could hold back the timing of its first rise in interest rates, now penciled in for early
The shift in the central bank's language was mild. But traders and investors have racked up large positive bets on
the pound over the past year.
The currency has gained over 13% against the dollar since last July, and made similar climbs against the euro, with
some wagering that a rise in interest rates could be coming this year.
Positive bets on sterling, and the currency's value, had started to ebb over the past month, but analysts at BNP
Paribas pointed to a "position overhang," with a heavy weight of such bets still outstanding when the report was
revealed. The stance from the Bank of England Wednesday proved to be a trigger for more of those positions to fold.
In a note, Citigroup, the world's largest currencies dealer, said its sterling trader in London has shifted into
selling the pound. "This no longer looks like a correction, but rather a downtrend. I have cut all of my sterling longs
and will look to sell rallies," the trader said. The bank's U.K. economist Michael Saunders said "there is nothing in
the inflation report and [Governor Mark] Carney's comments to indicate that the monetary policy committee is close to
the first hike at present. By contrast, we had expected that the Inflation Report would signal that a late-2014 rate
hike is in play."
Earlier in the day, the wages component in the monthly U.K. employment data fell shy of expectations. Average
weekly earnings excluding bonus payments rose at an annual pace of just 0.6% in the three months to June, the slowest
pace of growth since comparable records began in 2001, data from the Office for National Statistics showed. The BOE cut
its forecasts for wage growth to 1.25% from 2.5%, while Mr. Carney underscored the notion that rate rises, when they do
arrive, will be small and gradual.
That tone is a disappointment to some who were still hooked on Mr. Carney's statement in June that U.K. interest
rates could rise "sooner than markets expect."
"Markets listened, responded and have now listened some more and taken back their initial position," said Kit
Juckes, a macro strategist at Société Générale.
"To me, this Inflation Report clearly puts a nail in the coffin of any ideas about possible outperformance of [
sterling against the dollar]," said Peter Kinsella, a senior currency strategist at Commerzbank AG in London, adding
that the best way to trade the currency now is to sell it against the buck.
Underscoring the key role played by stale bets on sterling, U.K. government bonds were relatively steady. The yield
on U.K. government bonds maturing in 10 years dipped by 0.03 percentage point to 2.45%, marking a small pickup in price.
Stocks barely budged.
"We've been seeing a sea-change in sterling since the middle of July," said Daragh Maher, currency strategist at
HSBC, adding that the Inflation Report had enhanced the momentum of the currency's recent stumble, and caught many
investors off guard.
Write to Josie Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org and Katie Martin at email@example.com
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