Markets in Asia and Europe were mixed Friday after another tough day on US trading floors, with inflation continuing to soar and central bankers getting increasingly hawkish in their attempts to bring prices under control.
Sterling, however, managed to extend gains after clawing back more of the huge losses suffered at the start of the week owing to a tax-cutting mini-budget that analysts warned could cause even more pain to the already fragile UK economy.
The pound’s bounce -- from a record low of $1.0350 Monday to briefly go above $1.12 Friday -- came after the Bank of England pledged $71 billion of support to shattered financial markets, fearing that several pension funds could go under.
Britain’s beleaguered currency was given an extra boost by news Thursday that the budget watchdog will provide costings of new Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal plan on October 7, two weeks earlier than initially announced.
“This has helped alleviate some fears within markets given the initial optics of an uncosted large fiscal package,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.
Markets remain concerned about the UK economy and the impact that borrowing tens of billions of dollars will have on interest rates, with observers warning that the Bank of England could announce a 1.5 percentage point hike at its next meeting in November.
Sean Callow, at Westpac Banking Corp, said the pound’s gains this week were “a reminder that currencies are driven by a myriad of factors -- it’s clearly not due to any improvement in the outlook for the UK”. The bank’s cash injection meant it had to put on hold its plan to tighten monetary policy as part of a global effort to fight decades-high inflation.
But David Forrester, at Credit Agricole CIB, warned: “The pound is not out of the woods yet.
“While the BoE has restored some credibility to the currency, the government’s finances are another part that needs to be fixed for the pound’s rally to last.” Still, there was some good news for new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, as official figures showed Britain’s economy grew in the second quarter, instead of shrinking as previously estimated.
In a sign of the long road ahead for finance chiefs -- and the dour outlook for stocks -- data out of several countries including Germany and Belgium this week showed that prices are still rising about 10 percent year-on-year.
In the United States, Federal Reserve officials again reiterated their intention to ramp up rates until they have tamed inflation, even if that means plunging the world’s top economy into recession.
And the case for a fourth successive 0.75 percentage point lift was strengthened by news that first-time unemployment benefit claims fell below 200,000 for the first time since May.