Pound Escapes Worst-Performer Tag Imposed by Brexit Woes

  • Until this week, sterling was worst G-10 currency in 2016
  • Pound touches strongest in more than three months versus euro

The pound has shaken off an unwanted label.

It’s no longer the worst-performing Group-of-10 currency of 2016, after surging this week as polls signaled a receding risk of a Brexit following the European Union referendum in June. Sterling now leads the Australian and New Zealand dollars this year and got a brief boost Thursday after retail-sales data showed there’s still life in the U.K. economy.

The pound has been a gauge of sentiment toward EU membership ever since the June 23 referendum was called back in February. With the result too close to call for months, the currency bore the brunt of investor concern each time the government or Bank of England issued warnings that quitting the world’s largest single market would hurt the U.K. economy. With evidence that public opinion is shifting toward the “remain” camp, sterling has risen against all of its major peers this week.

“Some of the gloom has been lifting,” said Jane Foley, senior foreign-exchange strategist at Rabobank International in London.

The pound was supported Thursday as betting company William Hill put the chances of the “remain” camp winning at 82 percent. That followed a series of opinion polls favoring the status quo, including an Evening Standard survey this week that put the pro-Europeans 18 percentage points ahead.

Sterling also got a lift, which evaporated later in the afternoon, from data showing U.K. sales were more than double the level predicted by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. They rebounded after a contraction the month before.

Britain’s currency was little changed at 76.82 pence per euro as of 4:50 p.m. London time, after touching the strongest level since Feb. 4 earlier and climbing 1.8 percent on Wednesday. The pound was at $1.4596, following a 1.6 percent, three-day advance.

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