The British pound has fallen to a 7 year low against the US dollar and a record low against the Japanese Yen. Over the past 3 trading days, the GBP/USD has dropped more than 1000 pips or 7 percent. Consumer prices were hotter than the market expected, so what has fueled this aggressively selling?
One answer – FEAR
The market is afraid that the UK will turn into the next Spain or Greece. Over the past few months, they have been working overtime to inject more stimulus into the economy, but the more that they spend, the worse impact it has on the UK’s fiscal position. Deteriorating public finances has been the primary motivation for the recent downgrades of sovereign debt ratings by Standard and Poor’s. The FSA has dismissed this rumor but that doesn’t mean that the UK can’t be put on credit watch negative which would be one step before a downgrade. Investors are selling now and asking questions later because a downgrade would mean more losses for the British pound. Whenever a country loses its AAA rating, funds that are mandated to invest in only AAA assets need to liquidate and shift their positions elsewhere. We have seen this with Spain and could see it again with the UK.
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King will be speaking later today and he will probably attempt to calm the markets. But with employment data and the minutes from the latest monetary policy meeting due for release, his impact may be limited.
How Low Can the GBP/USD Fall?
The British pound has broken 2 key support levels – 1.45 and 1.40. Trends can last for a very long time in the currency market which is why there is a decent chance that we could see the GBP/USD slip to 1.3865, the June 2001 low. If that price level is broken, it would be a 16 year low for the currency pair. The 1.40 level is pretty critical on a closing basis. If the GBP/USD closes above 1.40 today, we may actually see a larger bounce, but don’t expect the currency pair to revisit the 1.45 level any time soon.