The pound fell to a two-month low as concern grew that the U.K. will vote to leave the European Union.
Sterling declined against all but one of its 16 major counterparts as four polls from three companies put the ‘Leave’ campaign ahead and the Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, backed a Brexit on its front page. A gauge of the pound’s anticipated volatility over the next two weeks — a period that includes the June 23 referendum — climbed to the highest on record.
“Lately we are seeing some momentum for ‘Leave’ reflected across opinion polls, and that is bringing the risk back again,” said Alvin T. Tan, a London-based foreign-exchange strategist at Societe Generale SA. “The fears are much more obvious in the options space, with two-week pound volatility at record highs.”
The pound dropped 1.1 percent to $1.4120 as of 1:21 p.m. in London, after touching $1.4109, the lowest since April 14. Implied two-week volatility, which is derived from options, rose to 40.5 percent -- three times the level at the beginning of this month.
If the polls continue to show momentum for the ‘Leave’ campaign, the pound could revisit $1.39 on the eve of the vote, SocGen’s Tan said.
Sterling weakened 0.5 percent to 79.54 pence per euro, approaching an almost two-month low reached on Monday.
Two new polls by ICM showed the ‘Leave’ side opening up a five percentage-point lead over ‘Remain.’ A YouGov Plc online survey showed ‘Leave’ at 46 percent with ‘Remain’ at 39 percent, while an ORB poll put ‘Leave’ at 49 percent and ‘Remain’ at 48 percent among those certain to vote.
Britain’s currency stayed lower as data showed annual inflation held at 0.3 percent in May, falling short of economists’ forecasts for an increase to 0.4 percent.
Bank of England officials announce their latest policy decision on June 16. Last month Governor Mark Carney said in a scenario where Britons voted to remain in the EU, the next move in the key BOE interest rate would probably be up, while a ‘Leave’ outcome wouldn’t automatically bring about an easing because a decline in the pound would accelerate price growth.
Tuesday’s inflation data “will merely reinforce the view in the market that if there is a Brexit on June 23, the BOE will be fully focused on providing stimulus to support the hit to demand, no matter how hard the pounds falls initially,” said Derek Halpenny, the London-based European head of global markets research at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. “The continued soft inflationary pressures gives the BOE plenty of scope to justify that approach to any monetary policy changes.”
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