GBP/USD – Pound Punches Above 1.30 as UK Retail Sales Sparkles

GBP/USD has recorded slight gains in the Thursday session. In North American trade, GBP/USD is trading at the 1.30 line for the first time since September 2016. On the release front, UK Retail Sales jumped 2.3%, well above the forecast of 1.2%. Over in the US, jobless claims and manufacturing numbers were strong, as unemployment claims dropped to 232 thousand, lower than the forecast of 240 thousand. As well, the Philly Fed Manufacturing Index soared to 38.8, crushing the forecast of 19.9 points. In Washington, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on the rollback of the Dodd-Frank finance regulations.

British consumer spending has been soft in recent weeks, so the April retail sales report was welcome news. The indicator posted a sharp gain of 2.3%, its strongest monthly gain since January 2016. The British economy has performed fairly well since the Brexit vote last June, but gray clouds remain on the not-too-distant horizon. Analysts expect the economy to lose steam once the thorny negotiations over Britain’s exit from the European Union begin. The Bank of England has been saying that Britons will have to get used to a lower standard of living, and the warning has become reality with the release of the latest wage growth report on Wednesday. Wages rose 21% year-on-year in the first quarter, resulting in real wages dropping for the first time since 2014, after adjusting for inflation. CPI, the primary gauge of consumer inflation, continued to move upwards, posting a sharp gain of 2.7% in April, matching the BoE forecast for inflation in the first quarter. This reading marked the strongest gain in CPI since September 2013. The BoE is expecting inflation to hit 3 percent, raising speculation that the central bank may raise interest rates to keep inflation under control. The weak pound, which is still down 13% since the Brexit vote, has contributed to higher inflation, which has hurt wage growth and caused consumers to scale back on spending, a key component of economic growth.

GBPUSD Breaks 1.30 After Retail Sales Report

The political chaos which has gripped Washington has led to nervous investors dumping US dollars, in favor of its rivals, such as the British pound. The beleaguered Trump administration appears to be rudderless as it staggers from crisis to crisis. The latest development is that the Justice Department has agreed to appoint a former FBI director as independent counsel to investigate possible Russian involvement in the US presidential election as well as any connection between Trump and the Russians during the election campaign. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Trump had asked former FBI director James Comey to close an investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s former security adviser, Michael Flynn, leading some lawmakers to question whether Trump had committed obstruction of justice. As if this wasn’t enough for Trump’s aides to deal with, the president is under fire for passing classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister. Trump initially denied the claim, but has since admitted that he did share intelligence with the Russians, arguing that he had acted within his rights. With the Trump administration frantically trying to douse political fires, investors are concerned that Trump will have more difficulty passing into law his plans for increased stimulus and tax reform. If the crisis mode in Washington continues, we could see the dollar lose more ground.

Political Uncertainty Roils Global Markets

GBP/USD Fundamentals

Thursday (May 18)

  • 4:30 British Retail Sales. Estimate 1.2%. Actual 2.3%
  • 8:30 US Unemployment Claims. Estimate 240K. Actual 232K
  • 8:30 US Philly Fed Manufacturing Index. Estimate 19.9. Actual 38.8 
  • 10:00 US CB Leading Index. Estimate 0.4%. Actual 0.3%
  • 10:00 US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Speaks
  • 10:30 US Natural Gas Storage. Estimate 61B. Actual 68B

*All release times are EDT

*Key events are in bold

GBP/USD for Thursday, May 18, 2017

GBP/USD May 18 at 12:50 EDT

Open: 1.2970 High: 1.3048 Low: 1.2937 Close: 1.2998

GBP/USD Technical

S1 S2 S1 R1 R2 R3
1.2706 1.2865 1.2946 1.3058 1.3121 1.3223
  • GBP/USD was flat in Asian trade. The pair posted gains in the European session but has edged lower in the North American session
  • 1.2946 is fluid. Currently it is a weak support line
  • 1.3058 is the next line of resistance

Further levels in both directions:

  • Below: 1.2946, 1.2865, 1.2706 and 1.2571
  • Above: 1.3058, 1.3121 and 1.3223
  • Current range: 1.2946 to 1.3058

OANDA’s Open Positions Ratio

GBP/USD ratio has shown slight movement towards short positions. Currently, short positions have a majority (56%), indicative of trader bias towards GBP/USD reversing directions and moving to lower ground.

This article is for general information purposes only. It is not investment advice or a solution to buy or sell securities. Opinions are the authors; not necessarily that of OANDA Corporation or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, officers or directors. Leveraged trading is high risk and not suitable for all. You could lose all of your deposited funds.

Kenny Fisher

Kenny Fisher

Currency Analyst at Market Pulse
Kenny Fisher joined OANDA in 2012 as a Currency Analyst. Kenny writes a daily column about current economic and political developments affecting the major currency pairs, with a focus on fundamental analysis. Kenny began his career in forex at Bendix Foreign Exchange in Toronto, where he worked as a Corporate Account Manager for over seven years.