Sterling slips in Brexit countdown, Aussie rallies

Sterling slips in Brexit countdown, Aussie rallies

© Reuters. Illustration photo of a British Pound Sterling note © Reuters. Illustration photo of a British Pound Sterling note

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Sterling was set to snap five weeks of gains with a slump on Friday, as leaders on both sides of Brexit trade talks sounded doubtful about finding a resolution, while the Australian dollar soared along with iron ore prices to hit a 2-1/2 year high.

The greenback was pinned near a two-and-a-half year low, with markets heavily short dollars as investors bet on better returns in other currencies as the pandemic recovery takes hold.

The euro rose to $1.2158 even after the European Central Bank expanded its bond buying scheme, given the move was widely expected. The central bank also lifted growth forecasts but lowered inflation projections for 2022.

Against a basket of currencies the dollar drifted lower to 90.662, which is barely a third of one percent above last week's 31-month trough.

Moves in morning trade were modest, but enough to push the Australian and New Zealand dollars to new multi-year highs and keep the euro within range of last week's two-and-a-half year high of $1.2177.

The yen rose 0.3% to 103.04 per dollar and the New Zealand dollar rose 0.1% to $0.7104.

The Australian dollar has broken past 75 U.S. cents for the first time since mid-2018 overnight as prices surged for Australia's biggest export commodity, iron ore. [AUD/][IRONORE/]

It last traded at $0.7547 and is set for a sixth consecutive weekly rise. Over that time, it has gained five cents, or 7% against the dollar.

The Australian dollar also hit a one-and-a-half year high of 78.58 yen and a six-month peak of A$1.6083 per euro overnight and even leapt against the yuan despite worsening trade tensions between China and Australia.

"With the iron ore price on a bull run, the Aussie is largely ignoring 'bad' news," said Commonwealth Bank of Australia (OTC:CMWAY) currency analyst Joe Capurso.

FINAL COUNTDOWN

Investors have until the weekend to make last-minute adjustments to their sterling positions as Brexit trade talks enter their final lap. [GBP/]

The pound slipped 0.8% overnight after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday there was "a strong possibility" Britain and the European Union would fail to strike a deal and it changed hands at $1.3306 in Asian morning trade.

The British pound has shed 1% so far this week as efforts to seal a trade deal with the EU before protections on some $1 trillion in annual trade expire at the end of the month have yielded little thus far.

Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has said talks are "difficult," have set Sunday as the deadline for finding a way forward.

Sterling volatility gauges are soaring as markets expect a wild ride to the finish line.

One-week volatility is at a new eight-month high and the premium of puts to calls is near its highest since April as investors pay up for downside protection.

"There has been a greater tendency for more jittery sterling longs to hit the sell button, although (the) market view remains that a deal is slightly more likely than not," said Stephen Innes, the Bankgkok-based chief strategist at Axi.

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