Sterling slips as investors await Brexit showdown

News of Brexit deal sent pound soaring but sterling erased gains before UK parliamentary vote on Saturday.

    Johnson's Conservative Party do not have a majority in parliament and several parties have said they will not back the deal [Francois Lenoir/Reuters]
    Johnson's Conservative Party do not have a majority in parliament and several parties have said they will not back the deal [Francois Lenoir/Reuters]

    The pound retreated on Friday morning, as relief that a Brexit deal had been agreed between London and Brussels was replaced by doubts the proposed deal will get through the United Kingdom's parliament in an upcoming vote.

    The pound held at five-month highs of $1.2874 against the dollar, down from Thursday's peak of $1.2988. It was little changed against the euro, at 86.28 pence.

    News of the Brexit deal sent the pound soaring on Thursday but sterling erased the gains before UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's next challenge: getting the deal approved in parliament, where he has no majority.

    The Democratic Unionist Party, the Northern Irish party that has helped prop up the minority Conservative government since the UK's 2017 general election, has said it will not vote for the deal.

    "[The pound is] reflecting pessimism over the likelihood of whether the deal will be able to pass through parliament tomorrow," said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at MUFG. "We think it's going to be a close call. We're a little more optimistic.

    "If it's rejected you might get a knee-jerk pound selloff, but we don't think the downside risks are that great. We think there'd be an extension and an election. We don't see no-deal risks coming back to the market."

    Members of parliament will vote on the deal on Saturday - the first Saturday session since 1982. The UK's scheduled departure date from the European Union is October 31.

    The most decisive move on Friday would be a change in the DUP's position, but that looked unlikely MUFG's Hardman said. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has also said he could not support the deal.

    Underscoring that the market is on alert for further wild swings in the pound, options linked to volatility expiring within the next week have more than doubled in price since last Friday.

    Implied overnight volatility on sterling rose to more than 18 percent, a new seven-month high.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency