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CURRENCIES: British Pound Extends Skid As Brexit Plan Unravels, Intensifying Calls For May's Ouster

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05/23/2019 | 08:28am EDT

By Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch

India's rupee slips against bucks after Modi election victory

The British pound added to losses against major rivals on Thursday, with some bears raising the remote possibility that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit struggles could drag Britain's currency to parity with the buck.

Most recently, sterling fell to $1.2641, compared with $1.2661 late Wednesday in New York, a decline of about 0.2%. The currency is trading near its second-lowest level in 2019.

Losses for the pound have come amid a faltering, last-ditch attempt by May to win support for her plan to exit from the European Union, which has thus far led to the resignation on Wednesday of Andrea Leadsom , the House of Commons leader, who could also challenge the premier for leadership.

The Brexit tussle comes as European Parliamentary elections that begin in the U.K. and the Netherlands are under way, with results expected to be announced Sunday.

Currency strategists say they expect more pressure on sterling, with investors increasing bets that the pound will suffer further losses as the threat of a disorderly Brexit is seen as increasing -- bearish for British units, said Société Générale. Strategists at the bank said a victory for Labour in the European elections for the U.K., combined with a near-term ouster of May (as soon as Friday), could see the pound test support level at $1.25.

"If the EU election result turns out to be a fiasco for the Conservatives...there is little to stop cable [GBP/USD] from retesting $1.2500," the strategists wrote.

May is expected to meet with her party's 1922 Committee (https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/1922-committee-the-22/), made up of all backbench Conservative members of parliament.

If the elections for European Parlaiment see the Brexit Party get more votes than the mainline Conservative and Labour parties combined, as seems likely, "then it's probably curtains for PM May. In that case, the appalling Boris Johnson is tipped to take over as PM and a 'no deal' Brexit becomes more likely. A disaster for the pound," wrote Marshall Gittler, chief strategist at currency-research firm ACLS Global.

The strategist implied that parity with dollars for sterling is a possibility if the U.K.'s Brexit backdrop darkens. "Will we finally see the long-awaited "pound parity party?" Stay tuned!!"

More Modi

India's rupee weakened against the buck as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the nationalist leader of the BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party, secured a new term as the country's leader, according to the official government tally.

The rupee traded at 69.9556 per dollar on Thursday, compared with 69.6800 late Wednesday, off 0.4%. The victory for Modi is viewed as setting the stage for more ambitious policies.

The country-specific exchange-traded iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA)has climbed 17.9% since Modi assumed office May 26, 2014. The S&P 500 index has climbed 50% over the same period, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained more than 55%.

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
BRITISH POUND / US DOLLAR (GBP/USD) 0.07% 1.27323 Delayed Quote.-0.31%
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.37% 25585.69 Delayed Quote.9.68%
NASDAQ 100 -0.10% 7300.960795 Delayed Quote.15.34%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.11% 7637.008585 Delayed Quote.15.10%
S&P 500 0.14% 2826.06 Delayed Quote.12.73%
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