Sterling moves higher before UK wages data

Theresa May still in talks with DUP to form government

The pound’s depreciation since last June’s Brexit vote has squeezed the spending power of consumers

The pound’s depreciation since last June’s Brexit vote has squeezed the spending power of consumers


Sterling strengthened against the dollar on Wednesday as investors awaited UK labour market data for signs of a pick-up in wages that could add to arguments for an eventual rise in record low Bank of England interest rates.

The Bank of England has highlighted stubbornly low wage growth since the 2008 financial crisis as one reason for keeping UK interest rates low. However, the pound’s depreciation since last June’s Brexit vote has pushed inflation above the bank’s 2 per cent target and squeezed the spending power of consumers, who until recently were seen propping up the economy.

Economists polled by Reuters expect April’s wage growth reading to come in at 2.4 per cent – still lagging inflation which came in at 2.7 per cent in April and hit 2.9 per cent, its highest in nearly four years, in May.

At 7.38am sterling was 0.3 per cent higher at $1.2783, and 0.2 per cent higher at 87.72 pence per euro.

“Today’s average earnings data are arguably more important for sterling than the headline inflation data,” RBC currency strategist Adam Cole wrote in a note to clients. “Sterling has failed to benefit from upside inflation surprises recently and this was again the case with yesterday’s May data. We put this down to the negative impact of higher inflation on real wage growth so long as nominal wage growth remains subdued.”

Data-heavy week

Besides a data-heavy week culminating in a Bank of England interest rate decision on Thursday, investors also awaited a resolution of the political limbo resulting from last week’s national election which produced no clear majority for any party.

Prime minister Theresa May is still in talks with the North’s DUP to form a minority government with her Conservative Party, less than a week before the formal start of Britain’s negotiations on leaving the European Union.

On the subject of Britain’s exit talks, Mrs May has not departed from her initial position that “no deal would be better than a bad deal” with the EU, but some investors reckon her weakened mandate will leave her less able to pursue a hard negotiating stance.

Soften Brexit

Finance minister Philip Hammond will argue for Britain to stay in the Customs Union in a bid to soften Brexit and alter Mrs May’s approach, the Times reported on Tuesday, citing several unnamed sources.

“A semblance of stability is helping [sterling] in terms of a minority government with a helping hand from the DUP. While it’s not ideal, ultimately it does suggest that we may not be getting another general election, so maybe there’s a little bit of optimism there,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. – Reuters