BoE preview – hawks grounded again

A weakening of UK data points to possible trouble for UK monetary policy hawks, and for the rally in GBP/USD.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England
Source: Bloomberg

The recent weakening in UK economic data, albeit from a strong level, suggests that those on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who had been planning to vote for higher rates will have the rug pulled from underneath them. As Reuters has noted, the economy grew by 0.3% in Q1, half the Bank of England’s (BoE) forecast, and the driver of the economy, household spending slowed in Q1 as well. Even inflation could be about to stall, given the recent slump in oil prices.

All this means that the MPC will have a tough time issuing optimistic predictions in its inflation report, which spells trouble in the near term for the rally in GBP/USD.  Meanwhile, it is likely that the vote this time will be the same as before, with just one policymaker voting for a rate increase (making the score 7-1, as the MPC is down one member after Charlotte Hogg departed).

The BoE will want to keep its options open, as it always does. Mark Carney’s view remains that the next move in rates is likely to be up, but even this still gives him the wiggle room to cut rates if needed, and conveniently skates over the fact that not moving is also an option, and will probably be the default one for the rest of the year and into 2018.

GBP/USD has faltered over the past two days, after a very strong run since the election was announced. It looks increasingly like we will see a pullback towards the March trendline, which suggests a drop to $1.27, although even a move below this would still constitute a lower high, as long as it holds above the April low at $1.2365.

GBP/USD price chart

Meanwhile, EUR/GBP remains interesting. It is moving towards the key support zone of £0.8304-£0.8402, which has stymied losses since July last year. On the upside however, we have a downtrend line off the Autumn highs, which could cap progress above £0.86. A breakout above here would mark a significant shift in trend. 

EUR/GBP price chart

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