Plus   Neg

Pound Slides As U.K. Retail Sales Plunge, Ramsden Hints At Negative Rate Policy

The pound fell against its major counterparts in the European session on Friday, as Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden supported taking rates into negative territory and the nation's retail sales declined at a record pace in April due to shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that retail sales volume declined 18.1 percent on a monthly basis, which was the biggest monthly fall on record. Economists had forecast sales to decrease 16 percent after falling 5.2 percent in March.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales were down 15.2 percent on month in April, bigger than the economists' forecast of 15 percent and a 3.8 percent decrease seen in March.

On a yearly basis, retail sales volume fell 22.6 percent versus March's 5.8 percent decrease and economists' forecast of 22.2 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales dropped 18.4 percent in April following a 4.2 percent drop in March. Economists had expected an 18.2 percent decrease.

In a separate communiqué, the ONS said that the UK budget deficit widened to a record high in April due to the unprecedented increase in borrowing by the government amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April, public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks was GBP 62.1 billion, which was GBP 51.1 billion more than in same period last year. This was the highest borrowing in any month on record.

Speaking to Reuters, Ramsden said that there are downside risks to post-COVID recovery and the real outlook of the economy could be worse than the Bank envisaged.

The BoE Deputy Governor said that he is open-minded about pushing the benchmark interest rate below zero.

The BoE still has "quite a lot of headroom" to purchase more bonds, Ramsden noted.

The pound declined to 4-day lows of 1.2163 against the greenback and 130.68 against the yen, after rising to 1.2234 and 131.78, respectively in early deals. The pound is likely to find support around 1.19 against the greenback and 126.00 against the yen.

The pound edged down to 1.1811 against the franc, from a high of 1.1876 hit at 9:30 pm ET. The currency may locate support around the 1.14 level.

In contrast, the pound appreciated to a 2-day high of 0.8940 against the euro, from a low of 0.8971 set earlier in the session. The next possible resistance for the pound is seen around the 0.86 mark.

Looking ahead, the European Central Bank publishes the account of the monetary policy meeting of the Governing Council held on April 29 and 30 at 7.30 am ET.

Canada retail sales for March are due out at 8:30 am ET.

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