Pound Rises as U.K. Suspends Campaigns on EU Vote for Second Day

  • BMG delays referendum poll as IMF postpones Brexit reports
  • Sterling climbs from a two-month low reached Thursday

U.K. Labour Party Lawmaker Jo Cox Dies After Attack

The pound climbed as campaigning over whether Britain should leave or stay in the European Union was suspended for a second day and an opinion poll on voter intentions in next week’s referendum was delayed.

Campaigning was stopped after the murder of U.K. lawmaker Jo Cox as she met constituents in her electoral district in West Yorkshire in the north of England. 
Sterling gained versus 13 of its 16 major peers as the International Monetary Fund said it was delaying a planned release of reports on the implications of the U.K. leaving the EU, while the polling company BMG said it would delay a referendum survey due to be published on Friday by 24 hours.

The pound has been one gauge of sentiment in the referendum. It fell to a two-month low versus the dollar on Thursday as the polls have tightened and Bank of England officials reiterated warnings about the risks of Brexit to the U.K. economy. A measure of one-week sterling-dollar volatility surged to a record high on Friday.

“I still think in the last few sessions ahead of the Brexit vote that we are in for a huge amount of volatility, that sterling is still highly vulnerable as are all risky assets,” said Jane Foley, a senior currency strategist at Rabobank International in London. “Whilst there has been an appearance of some sort of relief rally as campaigning has been suspended, the vote could still go either way.”

The pound rose 0.4 percent to $1.4266 as of 4:29 p.m. London time after falling to $1.4013 on Thursday, the lowest level since April 6. The U.K. currency strengthened 0.2 percent to 78.88 pence per euro.

A three-month measure of pound-dollar volatility based on option prices climbed to the highest level since the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy in 2008 this week as five polls in 24 hours showed the “Leave” campaign pulling ahead. A one-week gauge touched 49.7 percent, the highest since Bloomberg began collecting the data in 1998, and exceeding the previous record of 35.5 percent reached in October 2008.

The prospect of Britain exiting the world’s largest trading bloc has fueled investor nervousness across the globe. The Federal Reserve said on June 15 the U.K. referendum was a factor in its decision to keep interest rates on hold. BOE officials led by Governor Mark Carney left policy unchanged Thursday and said a vote for a Brexit may damage the country’s economy and trigger further weakness in the currency.

The Swiss National Bank also kept rates on hold Thursday. Officials there have said the June 23 referendum has potential to cause “enormous stress” in Europe.

Betting Perspective

The chances that Britons would elect to leave the EU have deteriorated, as tracked by Oddschecker’s survey of bookmakers’ implied probability. They slipped below 37 percent after being above 44 percent on Thursday.

“If you do see uncertainty, that typically will drive voters to the status quo,” said Karl Schamotta, director of foreign-exchange research and strategy in Toronto at Cambridge Global Payments, which hedges currencies for companies. “We’re seeing a trade that’s entirely too crowded -- at the end of the day, the market expectation remains that we will see a stay vote.”

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