Renewable Energy

Sterling slips back after BoE holds rates but slashes Q2 growth forecast

Credit: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE

Sterling gave up some of its gains versus the dollar and dropped against the euro on Thursday after the Bank of England slashed its second-quarter growth forecast and flagged risks from global trade tensions and a no-deal Brexit.

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - Sterling gave up some of its gains versus the dollar and dropped against the euro on Thursday after the Bank of England slashed its second-quarter growth forecast and flagged risks from global trade tensions and a no-deal Brexit.

The central bank's policymakers, as expected, voted unanimously to keep interest rates on hold at 0.75%. They stuck to their message that rates would need to rise in a limited and gradual fashion, so long as Britain avoids a damaging no-deal exit from the European Union.

The BoE message was far less dovish than the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, which this week opened the door to rate cuts and more stimulus to counter any economic slowdown and rising trade tensions.

But policymakers did note a darkening global outlook and said Britain's economy was now on track to stagnate in the second quarter, rather than grow 0.2% quarter-on-quarter as it had forecast last month.

The pound, trading around $1.2720 before the BoE announcement, fell to around $1.27, still leaving it up 0.4% on the day. Sterling has rallied in the past two days as investors dumped the dollar following the dovish Fed meeting.

Against the euro, the British currency extended its losses and was last down 0.4% at 89.095 pence EURGBP=D3.

"On the whole the message is following the theme set by the bank's peers in recent days by turning more dovish," said David Cheetham, an analyst at online broker XTB.

Cheetham added that while the BoE had stopped short of delivering as strong a signal as other central banks, "it does seem increasingly likely that the next move will be an interest rate cut rather than a hike."

Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE extended gains to hit a day's high, and was last up 0.5%. The exporter-heavy stock index tends to rise when sterling falls.

British government bond prices rallied, with September gilt futures FLGcv1 jumping by more than 35 ticks to a session high and benchmark 10-year gilt yields GB10YT=RR falling to the day's low of 0.809%, down more than 5 basis points on the day.

"I've seen nothing in what the BoE has been saying and doing that indicates any willingness to buck the trend from other central banks," Kevin Gardiner, global investment strategist at Rothschild & Co, said before the BoE announcement.

"Unemployment is lowest since (19)74, inflation is at (the BoE's) target, but they're unlikely to stick out from the central banking crowd right now."

Markets are not pricing for a BoE hike any time before August 2020.

Earlier, data showed British retail sales falling in May 0.5% month-on-month, in line with forecasts.

The UK economy has shown signs of weakness in the face of prolonged uncertainty over Brexit but economic data have tended to move the pound only marginally as traders focus on the departure from the EU.

Later on Thursday, the field of candidates hoping to replace Prime Minister Theresa May and take on Britain's so far ill-fated negotiations to leave the EU will be whittled down to two by Conservative Party lawmakers.

Grassroots members will then decide who will become party leader, and next prime minister, by the end of July - with Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson the favourite to win.

(Additional reporting by Helen Reid and David Milliken Editing by Mark Heinrich)

((thomas.wilkes@thomsonreuters.com))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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