Sterling extends gains after BoE sticks to policy outlook

The pound was last up 0.2% at $1.3648 and against the euro it was flat at 85.85 pence

  
UK pound coins plunge into water in this illustration picture, October 26, 2017.

UK pound coins plunge into water in this illustration picture, October 26, 2017.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

LONDON - Sterling extended its rise on Thursday after the Bank of England said two of its policymakers had voted for an early end to pandemic-era government bond buying and markets brought forward their expectations for an interest rate rise to March.

The pound was last up 0.7% at $1.3715 after trading around $1.3686 before the BoE announcement. Against the euro sterling also rallied further and was last at 85.43 penc , 0.5% stronger on the session.

Britain's two-year bond yield, the most sensitive to interest rate moves, jumped around 9 basis points to 0.37% , its highest since March 2020.

The BoE, as expected, kept its main interest rate unchanged at 0.1% and stuck to its 895 billion pound ($1.22 trillion) asset purchase target. 

Analysts said with the BoE flagging uncertainty around the inflation outlook and preferring to wait for more information before tightening, the meeting looked relatively dovish.

But investors jumped on news that policymaker Dave Ramsden had joined Michael Saunders in voting for an early end to the central bank's programme of government bond purchases even though policymakers voted unanimously to leave interest rates unchanged.

"The 7-2 vote is the beginning of a shift towards higher rates & boosts the chances that QE (quantitative easing) ends earlier than expected," said Neil Jones, London-based head of FX Sales for Financial Institutions.

Money markets brought forward their BoE rate hike expectations after Thursday's meeting, with an initial 15 basis points hike from the record low of 0.1% now priced in for March 2022, from May previously.

"The text comments are looking more hawkish in mind. We should continue to see further pound strength across the board & in increase in the chance of rate hike."

Viraj Patel, a macro analyst at Vanda Research, noted markets now priced in a base rate of 0.5% by September 2022 from November 2022 before the meeting.

"That's 2 hikes by next year (15bps + 25bps) when the Fed is still tapering in this period. Only downside risks to this... and history suggests central banks tend to disappoint on tightening. Good time to fade $GBP," he said suggesting traders should sell the pound versus the dollar at current levels.

Before the BoE decision, the pound had already traded higher on easing concerns about the Evergrande debt crisis -- panic that Chinese developer Evergrande would default on its debts this week sent investors into safer assets and currencies.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Elaine Hardcastle, William Maclean) ((thomas.wilkes@thomsonreuters.com))


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