Though Boris did garner a win
Another act’s caused him chagrin
The latest delay
Has kept the UK
Adrift ‘midst an increasing din
The question that has markets vexed
Is just what exactly comes next?
Elections? Could be
And likely a plea
To quantify Brexit’s effects
Definition of Brexit
“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Clearly, William Shakespeare was a man ahead of his time! The Brexit saga continues although it seems to have turned from drama to comedy. However, that is far better than the tragedy that could have come about in the event of a no-deal outcome. At this point, it seems the most likely outcome will be another three-month delay, with January 31st mooted as the target now, to allow the UK to finally (?) solve their internal dilemma. Yesterday’s activity saw Boris win the first vote, which means that he had sufficient support, in principal, for the deal he renegotiated with the EU. However, his attempt to force the second and third readings to occur today and tomorrow such that a final vote could be held was thwarted. Thus, while Parliament has approved what he has done, and that occurred despite lacking DUP support, they want more time to ponder the bill, and likely lard it with amendments for each group’s individual constituencies. Thus, the discussion now is the EU will grant a flexible delay, meaning January 31 is the target, but that if the UK can solve their internal arguments sooner, the date would be moved up.
While I continue to believe that this has played into Boris’s strength, and that any election will see him re-elected with a thumping majority, that remains unclear. But what is clear is that the FX market has adjusted its views on the potential outcomes. At this point I would suggest there are three possible results; a no-deal Brexit; passage of the current deal; or a vote and then new referendum which leads to a Remain victory and no Brexit at all. If we assume the following movements are realistic outcomes:
No-deal => 1.10
Current deal => 1.30-1.35
Remain => 1.45
Then the market has reduced the probability of a no-deal to just 15%, which is substantially lower than what had certainly been at least a 50% probability just a few weeks ago, while the probability of the deal being enacted has risen to nearly 80%, and a Remain outcome just 5%. While hardly scientific, this is one possible explanation for the current level, as well as a possible view of where the pound can go given those three end results. Don’t forget the salt!
A quick look at the pound this morning shows that it has fallen ever so slightly from yesterday’s closing level, just 0.1%, and that it remains quite volatile within its current trading range. My view is that an extension and a successful call for an election will lead to further cable strength as it will reduce the probability of a no-deal outcome even further. In fact, we could well see a growing view that a second referendum will be held and most recent polls seem to imply no Brexit at all. In that event, I think the pound can go much higher, at least until the market starts to pay closer attention to the entire EU’s deteriorating economic fundamentals and the reality that investment inflow is going to be lacking, while outflows pick up. Ultimately, I continue to see the dollar performing well, but for the pound, we may need a reset of the base level given everything that has occurred.
Turning to the rest of the G10 space, the dollar is firmer vs. 9 of them with only the yen holding up today. However, the magnitude of that strength has been extremely modest, averaging about 0.1%. In other words, not much is happening. The same is largely true in the EMG bloc, although the biggest gainer has been TRY with traders shaking off the ongoing Kurdish fighting and seemingly responding to an improvement in Consumer Confidence there. On the negative side, ZAR is under the gun today, down 0.8%, after lower than expected CPI readings (4.1%, 4.0% core) indicated that the SARB will be less aggressive tightening monetary policy, or perhaps, more aggressive loosening it.
In fact, today has all the hallmarks of a modest risk-off session as we have seen both Treasury and Bund yields slip about 3bps, gold prices rise 0.35% and equity markets come under pressure after earnings data has shown at least as many disappointments as beats. As I type, US futures are lower by 0.3% while there is weakness in the CAC (-0.6%) and both Italian and Spanish markets, and the DAX is the outperformer at unchanged on the day.
On the data front, yesterday’s Home Sales were mildly disappointing, falling a more than expected 2.2%, and there is nothing of real note this morning. That points to a day where absent a tweet from the White House, or a significant change in the Brexit debate in Parliament, FX will take its cues from the equity market and the ongoing earnings releases. The better the earnings, the more likely that risk will make a comeback and the dollar drift lower. The reverse is also true. But in the end, we are all beholden to other catalysts while we await next week’s FOMC meeting.