The British pound is fading badly on Thursday. GBP/USD has dropped a staggering 2.15% today and has fallen below the 1.24 line for the first time since July 2020. After the BoE decision, market focus has shifted to the elections in Northern Ireland later today. A Sinn Fein victory could weigh on the wobbly pound.
BoE hike fails to impress markets
The BoE raised interest rates for a fourth straight time since December, bringing the Official Bank Rate to 1.00%, its highest since 2009. Yet the market reception to the BoE move was decidedly chilly, as the pound has plunged almost 2% today.
Why the sour reaction from the markets? The 0.25% was a modest move and it’s questionable if it will have much impact on soaring inflation. In March, CPI rose to 7.0%, up from 6.2%, and the BoE has warned that inflation could surpass 10%. The modest rate hike passed by a vote of 6-3, surprising the markets which had expected an 8-1 vote. Two MPC members called for a 0.50% hike, which reveals a sharp split within the MPC. Governor Bailey admitted after the meeting that an uncertain economic outlook had led to a range of views in the MPC, and such a statement can hardly be expected to instill confidence amongst investors.
The BoE cannot be blamed for not being aggressive – it is well into its rate-hike cycle and the policy summary noted that “some degree of further tightening in monetary policy may still be appropriate in the coming months”. In addition, the BoE dropped the word “modest” to describe upcoming rate hikes. Yet the markets appeared to focus on the split vote and the warning from the BoE that the country could face a sharp economic downturn, and the thumbs-down response has sent the pound sharply lower.
As expected, the Federal Reserve raised rates at its meeting by a half-point, the largest increase in 20 years. The Fed signalled that it will deliver additional half-point hikes in June and July, with Fed Chair Powell stating that the FOMC was not “actively considering” a 0.75% increase.
The Fed is also implementing quantitative tightening with a reduction in the balance sheet. Starting in June, the Fed will sell USD 45 billion/mth in assets, which will rise to USD 95 billion/mth in September. In sharp contrast to the BoE’s hike, the financial markets reacted positively, as investors believe that the Fed’s rate hikes can curb inflation while ensuring a soft landing for the economy and avoiding a recession.
- GBP/USD faces resistance at 1.2612 and 1.2719
- There is support at 1.2272 and 1.2179
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