Friday, January 28

Sterling steadies at $1.36 after falling almost 2% since Friday

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LONDON — Sterling steadied on Wednesday at around $1.36 after falling almost 2% against the dollar since Friday amid rising numbers of COVID Delta variant cases in Britain and confusion about the lifting of restriction in England.

The pound this week fell to its lowest point since February 4 of $1.3572 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted most COVID-19 restrictions in England in what local media dubbed Freedom Day.

The government said that while cases are rising, hospitalisations and deaths remained low.

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Sterling edged 0.1% lower versus the dollar at $1.3618 at 1130 GMT as it “is attempting to stabilize after what has been a poor week so far,” said Jane Foley, Head of FX Strategy at Rabobank.

“Confusion on the removal of the lockdown measures remains a drag for the GBP in the near term,” wrote UniCredit analysts.

Versus the euro, the pound is flat, changing hands at 86.45, after sinking to a two-month low of 86.69 pence against the single currency in the previous day.

Analysts said sterling will likely remain under pressure against the euro as Johnson’s government would outline its approach on the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit agreement to Britain’s parliament on Wednesday. Rules agreed for the British-ruled province have been contentious since Britain severed ties with the European Union.

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“Another wave of news suggesting that the EU and the UK are at odds regarding the Northern Ireland protocol will not help sentiment today,” said Rabobank’s Foley.

Britain told the EU on Tuesday to “think again” after the bloc published a plan for post-Brexit negotiations over the future of Gibraltar, which London said seeks to undermine British sovereignty over that territory.

Keeping sterling on check, a survey by Lloyds Bank showed that Britain’s economic bounce-back from the winter lockdowns cooled in June despite a surge in business for the hospitality sector.

In the meantime, British public sector net borrowing, excluding public sector banks, fell to 22.8 billion pounds ($31.0 billion) in June, still the second-highest June figure on record. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a drop to 21.6 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Joice Alves Editing by Peter Graff, William Maclean)