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Sterling slides as Article 50 trigger looms

31 March 2017

By early afternoon, sterling was 0.26% and 0.54% higher against the dollar and the euro respectively, trading at $1.2464 and €1.1607. Investors would need to see a more detailed timeline of the negotiations.

Among them are uncertainty about whether Mr Trump, who recently failed in his bid to transform the United States healthcare system, will be able to enact ambitious tax reform, France's turbulent presidential election and speculation that the European Central Bank might move to rein in its huge asset purchase programme.

"Article 50 could reintroduce [the "Hard-Brexit discount"] by making Brexit a reality and perhaps triggering a surge in media and market speculation over the final outcome of the negotiations", said Jonathan Loynes, chief economist for London-based Capital Economics. The US Dollar index ended trading 0.5% higher following an impressive set of confidence data.

At the start of a week set to include Britain's formal request to leave the European Union, the pound gained 0.8 percent compared with Friday's close in NY, reaching $1.2615, its highest since February 2. Defeat for Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, in France's presidential election, which is decided in May, could provide a further boost.

"Another crucial notion is whether or not the pound will be able to recover once Article 50 is triggered, as some analysts predict that parity with the dollar or even the euro is within sight".

Ironically, the Euro seems to be suffering the most out of today's Brexit beginning, rather than the Pound.

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"Clearly Brexit has been the dominant story and has been the key driver of both exchange rates", says Ugo Lancioni, a fixed income and currency portfolio manager at Neuberger Berman.

Returning to sterling, its gains on Monday came largely after Trump failed to get his Healthcare Bill okayed by Congress, which led to investors pondering what would come next.

The pound has also been sensitive recently to British economic data, which has started showing mixed signs.

It is up about 3 percent in the past two weeks as accelerating inflation fuels expectations that the Bank of England is moving towards tightening policy, and is also benefiting from broad dollar weakness.

"Really it has been a dollar story today, but just the weight of the short positioning and its relative illiquidity have made sterling the outperformer along with the yen", said Nomura analyst Jordan Rochester.

However it's likely that sterling will remain volatile against the world's major currencies.

Sterling slides as Article 50 trigger looms