Lizzy Birmingham provides a brief roundup of the major FX moves this week, and the drivers behind each. 1) GBP Plummets Amid Uncertainty The British pound has hit a four month low. The continued drop in value has been caused by opposing parties failing to create Brexit deal and the looming resignation of Prime Minister […]
A storm is brewing in the world of FX derivatives. Driven by, surprise surprise, Brexit uncertainty and Trump – there’s a sizable chunk of activity in GBP/USD options relative to the other major currency pairs.
Now the geopolitical landscape is of course backed into the price of the underlying currency pair, as opposed to the activity of the options. But the challenge is that as volumes increase, investment banks have to inevitably pay more in interdealer broker (IDB) fees. And the bigger the volume, the bigger the brokerage cost. Already under intense scrutiny to reduce costs wherever possible, this is a major headache that any desk head could do without right now.
Speaking at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC) meeting today in Washington, a range of market participants weighed in on the expected impact of Britain’s exit from the European Union
Eileen Kiely, director at BlackRock, said that markets are currently in a period of low volatility – both implied and realised across asset classes globally – and that she does not expect Brexit to disrupt this trend. This is in part because Kiely believes that markets are currently pricing the risks associated with Brexit appropriately.
The value of sterling slid today as Bank of England (BoE) Governor, Mark Carney, indicated that there would be no immediate adjustment of monetary policy by the central bank.
In a speech delivered at Mansion House in London, Carney declared that “now is not yet the time to begin” monetary adjustment, ruling out the possibility of an interest rate hike.
GBP/USD promptly dropped from 1.2753 at 8am BST to 1.2631 just before 3pm BST in response to Carney’s comments. “Since the prospect of Brexit emerged, financial markets, notably sterling, have marked down the UK’s economic prospects.
The outcome of the UK General Election has become less certain as the campaign has progressed, posing questions around the impact of an unexpected result. Some investors are speculating about how this will affect the pound and, of course, Brexit negotiations. Michael Gowland, global head of treasury at Earthport FX, provides an outline of some of the possible scenarios.
Scenario 1: Conservative win
The market has largely priced in this outcome and therefore, we expect this result to have a neutral to slightly negative impact on sterling going forward. The Conservative pledge of a “balanced budget by 2025”, which roughly translates as tighter fiscal policy, may have a medium-term impact on sterling, although the current upward trend we see on technical charts should not be discounted – and at this stage, we would refrain from being overly negative.
When assessing which large tail risk events are likely to take place in 2017, speakers at Profit & Loss’ Forex Network London emphasised that there are other risk factors being overlooked that might have a greater impact on financial markets.
“Like last year, the tail risks this year are quite high compared to normal,” said Colin Harte, strategist and senior portfolio manger at BNP Paribas Investment Partners. “There are some quite material risks that – if they come to pass – could have a significant impact on markets.”
He noted, however, that many of the expected tail risk events from 2016 were less dramatic than expected in the end: sterling took an obvious hit after the Brexit result, but soon became range-bound again, while the Trump election victory actually led to a rally in the equity markets.
Last year the FX market was highly event driven, with periods of sustained low volatility occasionally punctuated by large but episodic market moves.
Looking ahead to 2017 and there are already clearly some events set to take place that have the potential to drive further bursts of volatility, namely the invocation of Article 50 by Britain to begin its exit from the European Union and the scheduled political elections in France, Holland and Germany.
In addition, the change of policy direction expected under US Presidential-elect, Donald Trump, and the US Federal Reserve’s indication at the end of 2016 that it currently plans to raise rates three times this year are expected to be major drivers of the currency markets in the coming year.
With the immediate market risk of the US elections having diminished, Saxo Bank has returned its margin requirements to normal levels, with the exception of GBP pairs.
Saxo raised margin requirements ahead of the US election to try and ensure that its clients were appropriately leveraged going into what it expected could be a significant market event.
It raised the requirements on most major FX pairs up to 2%-3%, with MXN and RUB going to 15% and 10%, respectively. Claus Nielsen, head of markets at Saxo, comments:
Sterling jumped almost 100 pips today after the British High Court ruled that the UK parliament must vote on Brexit before it is formally triggered by Article 50.
The government is expected to appeal the court’s decision, but in the meantime, sterling rose from 1.2335 at 10am UK time to peak at 1.2494 by 1:15pm, its strongest since the October 7 flash crash.
The other big news in the UK today was that the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to maintain Bank Rate at 0.25%.
The Bank of England (BoE) is expecting that some “monetary policy easing will likely be required over the summer” as the “economic outlook has deteriorated” on the back of the UK voting to leave the EU, the BoE governor Mark Carney said in a speech today at the Bank. In addition, “in order to support […]