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- GBP best in G10 class but has further to run says Morgan Stanley.
- Says recent events mean "soft Brexit" and BoE hikes are coming.
- May push GBPUSD up by 15%, GBPEUR may rise as much as 3%.
The Pound remains the best performing currency in the G10 universe for 2019 but the British currency has much further to rise, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley, who've recently told clients to buy the British currency.
Morgan Stanley forecasts double digit upside from Thursday's level for the Pound-to-Dollar rate before the year is out and around a 3% increase for the Pound-to-Euro rate, the latter of which has already risen 5.4% thus far in 2019.
Analysts at the bank also advocated that clients buy the Pound-to-Dollar rate earlier in March, as they themselves are targeting a move up to 1.3650, although their year-end forecast for that exchange rate is much higher.
Expected changes in relative interest rates are key to much of the projected increase but the anticipated shift in base rates and bond yields could not happen without a resolution of the Brexit saga that's ongoing in the UK parliament.
"This week's Brexit news affirms our view that the probability of a softer Brexit is continuing to rise, particularly a Brexit that includes tighter economic linkages to the EU. Meanwhile the risks of a hawkish BoE remain underpriced - wage growth continues to rise in the UK while capacity pressures bite, suggesting potential inflation pressures," says Hans Redeker, head of FX strategy.
Significant numbers of MPs have indicated they will now back Prime Minister Theresa May's EU Withdrawal Agreement for fear of losing sight of the exit door entirely, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and at least 25 others.
Those pledges of support came after PM May offered to resign once her signature bill is through the House of Commons. However, a large number of MPs still oppose it and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland is so-far unmoved in its opposition to the treaty.
The withdrawal agreement will set the stage for negotiations on the future relationship so a change of Prime Minister would not address its deficiencies If it is not passed this week the UK will receive from the EU an Article 50 extension that runs only until April 12.
At that point MPs will choose between a so-called no deal Brexit and a much longer extension that would require participation in EU elections while politicians establish a way forward. PM May has said she will not allow a "no deal" exit unless parliament consents to it, but MPs voted on Wednesday with a majority of 240 to reject that idea.
"The announcement of a proposed Brexit extension raises the risk of a public vote to ultimately solve Brexit, which may add some short-term risk premium and uncertainty into the currency. However, the long-term probability of a softer Brexit outcome is, as a result, rising, making GBP longs still attractive in our view," Redeker says.
Above: Pound-to-Dollar rate shown at weekly intervals.
This will give the Bank of England (BoE) an opportunity to lift its interest rate again, by eliminating the risk of a "no deal Brexit", which has long been seen as the difference between whether the BoE hikes or cuts its rate next.
The trade tariffs and non-tariff barriers on bilateral trade that would come with a "no deal Brexit" could potentially undermine the outlook for inflation by reducing demand in the economy. As a result, the BoE has been reluctant to make any changes to interest rates before it knows exactly how the Brexit saga will end.
The Bank of England has raised its interest rate by 25 basis points on two occasions since the referendum in 2016, taking the Bank Rate up to 0.75%, it highest level since before the global financial crisis.
But the central bank has said repeatedly in recent months that elevated inflation and a robust outlook for consumer price pressures mean it'll need to keep raising rates in the coming quarters.
"GBP is most highly correlated to local rates and rate differentials, suggesting that a hawkish shift [at the Bank of England] should propel GBP higher. A key risk to the trade is that UK economic data softens, reducing the probability that the BoE raises rates," Redeker says, in a note to clients.
Interest rate changes influence exchange rates through their impact on the attractiveness of related investments, particularly those in the bond market. They do that by reducing, or widening already-negative, interest rate differentials.
International capital tends to flow wherever relative interest returns are most favourable so if the gap between two interest rates moves in favour of one currency that is on one side of an exchange rate, that currency will normally be rewarded with a bid from the market.
The U.S. Federal Funds rate of 2.5% is substantially higher than the BoE's 0.75% but markets are already speculating the Federal Reserve could cut its interest rate next year so if the BoE were to lift Bank Rate the Pound-to-Dollar rate differential would move in favour of Sterling.
It is a gradual increase in market bets on BoE rate hikes that Redeker says will drive the Pound-to-Dollar rate up to Morgan Stanley's forecast of 1.52 by year-end, from 1.32 on Thursday, which implies an increase of 15% to come on top of the 3.5% gain already under the exchange rate's belt.
The Pound-to-Euro rate is forecast to rise by almost 3% to just below the 1.22 level, from 1.1720 Thursday. The lesser increase in that exchange rate owes itself to the fact the Euro-to-Dollar rate is also projected to rise substantially, to 1.25, from 1.1250 Thursday.
Above: Pound-to-Euro rate shown at weekly intervals.
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