GBP/USD – Pound Touches 1.36 as British Retail Sales Sparkles

The British pound has posted slight gains in the Wednesday session. Currently, GBP/USD is trading at 1.3529, up 0.16% on the day. On the release front, British Retail Sales was unexpectedly strong, gaining 1.0%. This easily beat the forecast of 0.2%. The US will release Existing Home Sales, which is expected to improve to 5.46 million. This will be followed by the Federal Reserve rate statement. On Thursday, the US will release unemployment claims and the Philly Fed Manufacturing Index.

British Retail Sales sparked in August with a gain of 1.0%, its strongest reading since April. This easily beat the forecast of 0.2%, and pushed sterling to 1.3607 before it dipped lower. On Monday, GBP/USD climbed to 1.3618, its highest level since the Brexit vote in June 2016. Despite a lack of wage growth, British consumers kept their pocket books open in August. The sharp reading will increase pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates, which hasn’t happened in a decade.

BoE Mark Carney has often warned about the toll that Brexit will take on the British economy, and he repeated these concerns in a speech at the International Monetary Fund in Washington in Monday. Carney said that Britain’s loss of its trade relationship with the European Union would push inflation higher and slow growth, and labeled Brexit as “an example of de-globalisation, not globalisation.” Pro-Brexit supporters have been unhappy with Carney’s stance on Brexit, arguing that high inflation is a result of the BoE’s stimulus program and ultra- low interest rate policy, rather than Brexit. Carney also hinted at a rate hike, saying that monetary policy “would have to move”. The pound jumped 3.0% last week, after the minutes of the BoE’s policy meeting strongly hinted at a rate hike before the end of the year. Will the BoE raise rates at the November policy meeting?

All eyes are on the Federal Reserve, as the central bank releases its September rate statement. The FOMC is expected to hold the benchmark rate at 1.25%, so analysts will be looking for details about the the Fed balance sheet and a possible rate hike in December. Earlier in the year, the Fed outlined plans to begin reducing its bloated balance sheet of $4.2 trillion, and the markets are expecting more details, such as a start date for the tapering. The Fed is expected to reduce the balance sheet by not replacing some maturing bonds, starting at $10 billion/month, and gradually moving higher. This move can be viewed as a mini-rate hike, and could provide a boost for the US dollar against major rivals. However, if the Fed does not address its balance sheet, the markets could get nervous and the US dollar could lose ground. As for inflation, persistently low levels remains well below the Fed target of 2% and this has hampered plans for a third rate hike in 2017. Janet Yellen has not discussed a December move, but in recent weeks, some FOMC members have come out against another rate hike before inflation moves higher, even if this means waiting until 2018. If the rate statement addresses the timing of another rate hike, we could see substantial movement from the US dollar.

Sterling and Kiwi dollar forge ahead of Dot Plot release

GBP/USD Fundamentals

Wednesday (September 20)

  • 4:30 British Retail Sales. Estimate 0.2%. Actual 1.0%
  • 10:00 US Existing Home Sales. Estimate 5.46M
  • 14:00 US FOMC Economic Projections
  • 14:00 US FOMC Statement
  • 14:00 US Federal Funds Rate. Estimate <1.25%
  • 14:30 US FOMC Press Conference

Thursday (September 21)

  • 8:30 US Unemployment Claims. Estimate 302K
  • 8:30 US Philly Fed Manufacturing Index. Estimate 17.3

*All release times are GMT

*Key events are in bold

GBP/USD for Wednesday, September 20, 2017

GBP/USD September 20 at 7:55 EDT

Open: 1.3511 High: 1.3607 Low: 1.3493 Close: 1.3529

GBP/USD Technical

S1 S2 S1 R1 R2 R3
1.3347 1.3444 1.3514 1.3667 1.3809 1.3901
  • GBP/USD was flat in the Asian session. In European trade, the pair posted considerable gains but has retracted
  • 1.3514 was tested earlier in support and is a weak line
  • 1.3667 is the next resistance line

Further levels in both directions:

  • Below: 1.3514, 1.3444 and 1.3347
  • Above: 1.3667, 1.3809 and 1.3901
  • Current range: 1.3514 to 1.3667

OANDA’s Open Positions Ratio

GBP/USD ratio is unchanged in the Wednesday session. Currently, short positions have a majority (63%), indicative of trader bias towards GBP/USD continuing to move higher.

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.