Is now a good time to trade the GBP?


Sterling has encountered significant losses in recent days with the increasing support for anti-EU theme from the recent ORB polls conducted regarding the referendum. More than 55% of voters showed their support for leaving EU while only 45% were interested in staying back with EU. The important point to note here is that price action has been driven mostly by change in market sentiments based on results from poll data. The volatility of GBP has consequently increased since the announcement of referendum and has dropped to its lowest levels as last seen in 2008.

GBP has been performing very bad especially against dollar and GBP/USD reached its all-time-low level of around 1.39 during the month of February 2016. It was the time when initial talks about referendum came into picture that caused huge fears among the investors regarding the financial instability of UK. Based on technical analysis from the options market, there is 72 percent chance of GBP/USD pair trading anywhere between 1.32 and 1.51, by June 24th once the results of the referendum are announced. The GBP/EUR exchange rate is meanwhile expected to range between 1.33-1.35 after the voting.

The topic of British Exit from Europe has been discussed for years and became popular during February 2016 after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to conduct a voting for the same by June. Though voting will be held on June 23rd, it will not result in immediate departure of UK from the European Union. It would commence a multi-year negotiation period on the terms for exiting EU.  Based on polls conducted during last few months, there has been mixed results on the majority’s bias with some polls showing minor leads on either side. The below table from Wikipedia shows the results of various polls conducted regarding the referendum,

Date Remain Leave Undecided Sample Size Poll Name
9-10 June 42% 43% 11% 1,671 YouGov
7-10 June 44% 42% 13% 2,009 Opinium
8-9 June 45% 55% n/a 2,052 ORB
5-6 June 43% 42% 11% 2,001 YouGov
3-5 June 43% 48% 9% 2,047 ICM
2-5 June 52% 40% 7% 800 ORB
1-3 June 41% 45% 11% 3,405 YouGov
31 May – 3 June 43%
2,007 Opinium
30 – 31 May 41% 41% 13% 1,735 YouGov
27 – 29 May 42%
1,004 ICM
25 – 29 May 51% 46% 3% 800 ORB

Britain has always remained a semi-detached member of European Union and most of the British bureaucrats believe that they can do better alone. Some of them are frustrated by the fact that EU gets benefited more from the UK than UK from the EU.  The recent economic problems of some EU members like Greece have caused huge disinterest regarding the EU membership among British investors.  Though pound has decreased significantly against USD and the trading is done based on shifting expectations for the referendum, GBP/EUR is showing a longer-than-average bullish day’s range as of June 15th, which is giving a positive outlook for trading GBP. It is an early sign for positive impact on GBP in the currency market, after the steep decline experienced in recent days. The important fact to note here is that Brexit will not only affect GBP, but also Euro.

Based on certain analysis reports, UK leaving the EU could result in loss of more than 950, 000 jobs by 2020 and deficit around £100 billion which is around 5% of their GDP. When looking at possible impacts for each decision, it is important to note that whatever significant ground lost in recent days is likely to be made up relatively fast once the business gets usual after the referendum. But even before voting, many investors are selling GBP as risks are associated more with the decision. If we look at the current account deficit of UK, it clearly indicates that GBP is becoming weaker. UK has a current account deficit of more than 5 times its GDP, which is the worst for any developed nation making this a strong reason for sterling’s weakness in currency market. In the coming days closer to referendum, we can expect to see sterling respond less to economic reports of UK and trade based on Brexit-related updates.

Any pro-Brexit pool can result in further decline of GBP and anti-Brexit news could cause an upward trend on GBP. If the Brexit vote becomes positive and pound hits the lows, it will be a good time to buy GBP as it will definitely bounce back after some time. The Bank of England might come for rescue by announcing interest rate hike to generate a positive sentiment among the investors. Euro will also face downward pressure, if the Brexit vote becomes positive and is already witnessing some volatility based on the poll results.  Trading GBP amid this volatility is a risky affair for currency traders since none of us have a crystal ball. Since the vote is currently too close to call, it might be sensible to lighten up your exposure ahead of the referendum.