Sterling hits best rate in month versus the dollar

The pound rose to its strongest level in a month against the dollar as the fastest increase in Britons’ wages since 2011 had traders rushing to reassess how soon the Bank of England may raise interest rates.

Sterling hits best rate in month versus the dollar

Sterling extended its gains into a seventh day versus the euro, the longest streak since March, after the 2.7% annual increase in average weekly earnings surpassed analyst estimates and pointed to tightening labour conditions.

With the Bank of England saying at the same time that factors holding back the economy were fading, investors brought forward bets on the first increase in central-bank rates by two months to June next year.

“Markets are under-priced for the risk of a rate hike before the end of the year and repricing that risk should carry sterling higher,” said Adam Cole, head of global currency strategy at Royal Bank of Canada in London.

The pound rose versus 13 of its 16 major counterparts yesterday. The UK currency rose 0.4% to $1.5707 after earlier reaching $1.5755, its highest point since May 15. Sterling appreciated 0.4% to 71.58 pence per euro. It touched 71.47 pence, the strongest level since June 1.

Among major currencies, only the dollar and Sweden’s krona have outperformed the pound in the past month, as prospects for looser monetary policy overseas enhanced the relative allure of UK assets. Now, the potential for the Bank of England to move sooner than the market had priced in may redouble that appeal.

The increase in average weekly earnings exceeded analysts’ forecasts for a 2.1% gain, while separate data from the Office for National Statistics also showed the UK jobless rate, measured by International Labour Organisation standards, was at 5.5% in the three months to April. It hasn’t been lower since June 2008.

“Higher earnings are consistent with a tighter labour market,” strategists at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co, including New York-based global head of currency strategy, Marc Chandler, wrote in a client note.

Investors are now fully pricing a quarter-point rate increase by June 2016, according to MPC-dated forward Sonia contracts data provided by ICAP.

That’s earlier than the August 2016 move priced in before the jobs data. It assumes the current four basis-point spread for Sonia fixings below the official bank rate would return to zero once the central bank raises borrowing costs.

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