LONDON, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Sterling hit a five-week high against the dollar on Friday and recorded its best fortnight on a trade-weighted basis in almost eight years, with investors’ focus having turned away from Brexit and towards political risks elsewhere.
Since Donald Trump’s shock victory in the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, the pound has been the best performer of any major currency, outshining even the dollar, which itself is on track to record its best week in a year against a basket of currencies.
Sterling rose above $1.26 for the first time since Oct. 6, the day before it plunged as much as 10 percent in a matter of minutes in a “flash crash”, and advanced as high as $1.2673 in European trade. By 1704 GMT it was around $1.2607, up 0.4 percent on the day.
Against the euro it gained 0.8 percent to trade at 86.13 pence, having earlier hit a seven-week high.
The pound was building on gains made on Thursday as investors unwound short positions and turned their minds to a slew of upcoming political risks in Europe – such as an Italian constitutional referendum next month and French and German elections next year – as Trump’s shock win spread fears about a global wave of populism.
“Sterling’s been the greatest outperformer since the Trump win. You’d have thought he won the UK presidency!” said Societe Generale currency strategist Alvin Tan.
“There’s speculation about the UK’s hand being strengthened by Trump’s win, because if the U.S. downgrades NATO or the security umbrella over Europe, the UK’s relatively strong military intelligence security assets become more important,” he said. “And perhaps that can be used as leverage in the Brexit negotiations.”
Britain’s finance minister Philip Hammond will deliver his first “Autumn Statement” budget plans later this month, and he has hinted at the possibility of more spending on infrastructure, getting more houses built and giving companies incentives to overcome their Brexit nerves and invest.
There has been some suggestion that the prospect of more spending could be a boost for sterling.
But Tan said compared with the bold promises of Trump – who plans to slash taxes as well as spend heavily on infrastructure – Hammond’s policies would be mild, and would not be radically different from his predecessor.
Against the Bank of England’s trade-weighted basket of currencies, stering has gained more than 4 percent in the past two weeks. Worries that Britain would make a “hard” exit from the European Union and lose its access to the single market have receded for the moment as the spotlight moves elsewhere.
“The pound seems to be riding the resurgent dollar’s coattails, driven by excessive short positioning that leaves the pound the least vulnerable against the strengthening dollar at the moment,” said Valentin Marinov, head of G10 FX research at Credit Agricole in London.
While the impact of political events on currencies has overshadowed economic issues in recent weeks, British labour data next week is expected to continue the recent stream of resilient post-Brexit figures and may keep the pound relatively well supported.