Traders prepare for Brexit turmoil to hit pound

Three-month pound-US dollar volatility has climbed above 13.5 per cent, the highest since Jan 3, when no-deal risk was also rising ahead of a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal.
Three-month pound-US dollar volatility has climbed above 13.5 per cent, the highest since Jan 3, when no-deal risk was also rising ahead of a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Traders are bracing themselves for further turbulence to hit the pound as the risk of a chaotic British exit from the European Union increases.

A measure of expected swings over the next three months, covering the Oct 31 Brexit deadline, has surged near its highest this year after Queen Elizabeth II approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request to suspend Parliament for almost five weeks. That sets up a battle with lawmakers trying to block no-deal and the currency is likely to react to every political headline.

Mr Jeremy Stretch, head of Group-of-10 currency strategy at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in London, said a no-deal Brexit is "firmly back onto the radar, impacting volatility".

Three-month pound-US dollar volatility has climbed above 13.5 per cent, the highest since Jan 3, when no-deal risk was also rising ahead of a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal. That level is the most among Group-of-10 peers and puts it in the same camp as emerging-market currencies such as the Mexican peso. Traders and companies that have not hedged their sterling exposure for the October deadline now face having to pay up in the options market. The relative cost of hedging sterling over three months is at its most expensive in more than three years.

Volatility and hedging costs had collapsed after the last Brexit deadline was extended in April, but this time Mr Johnson has vowed to leave. This week's trading has seen sterling keep reversing direction.

The pound climbed above US$1.23 on Tuesday on optimism after the positive tone struck by European leaders at a Group of Seven meeting, before sliding on Wednesday, and breaking below US$1.22 yesterday. The currency could tumble to US$1.10 if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2019, with the headline 'Traders prepare for Brexit turmoil to hit pound'. Print Edition | Subscribe