Pound Sterling Pulls Back From New Highs Ahead Of ECB Meeting

The Pound Sterling (GBP) traded just below new yearly highs of 1.2590 against the US Dollar (USD) after the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) decision to lift the Fed Funds Rate by 0.25% to a 5-5.25% range on Wednesday. Yet it was changed to the language of the accompanying statement, which caused the most damage to the US Dollar after it suggested tighter policy would not be appropriate. GBP/USD traded to new yearly highs after the release though it moderated on slightly more hawkish commentary from Chairman Powell during his press conference.

Traders will now look to the European Central Bank (ECB) policy meeting on Thursday at 12:15 GMT for further cues. A particularly hawkish announcement could see flows from the US Dollar to the Euro, with similar knock-on effects felt by Cable. Friday’s Nonfarm Payrolls (NFP) jobs report could further inject volatility into GBP/USD if it misses expectations (bearish for USD, bullish for GBP/USD) or comes out substantially higher (bullish for USD, bearish for GBP/USD).

From a technical perspective, GBP/USD continues to edge higher within a range, part of a broader bullish trend that began at the September 2022 lows. Longs are, therefore, favored over shorts. 

GBP/USD market movers

  • The Federal Reserve meets market expectations for a 25 bps interest rate hike at its FOMC meeting on Wednesday, raising the Fed Funds Rate to a 5-5.25% range.
  • The accompanying statementdrops wording that “some additional policy firming may be appropriate.”, suggesting this hiking cycle may be over and triggering a USD sell-off.
  • Powell mentions that the labor market is “very tight” and that though supply and demand in the labor market are coming to a better balance overall, labor demand is above supply –  a hawkish statement. 
  • Powell mentions continued risks to financial stability and the effect of credit tightening but does not rule out the need for further hikes. Nevertheless, he says the change in the statement’s wording was “significant.”
  • Market gauges of future rate hikes suggest a 95% probability of no future hikes from the Fed. 
  • Meanwhile, GBP is underpinned by data for March which continued to show UK inflation above 10% for the seventh consecutive month. 
  • This suggests the Bank of England (BoE) is far from done with hiking interest rates in the UK and may have to hike more than once to get inflation back under control. If so, this is a medium-term bullish factor for Pound Sterling. 
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) policy meeting at 12:15 GMT on Thursday could impact Dollar-pairs if the ECB Governing Council comes out particularly hawkish or decides to hike by 50 bps (current expectations are for 25 bps).
  • ECB Chief Economist Philip Lane suggested the state of euro area banks might have a bearing on the policy decision, yet the Bank Lending Survey (BLS) for Q1 showed no outsized risks to Eurozone banks due to the crisis. However, the report did show credit conditions had tightened, but no more than in Q4. 
  • Depositors in Europe cannot facilitate withdrawals and reallocations into higher-yielding money market funds or other higher-interest-bearing vehicles as quickly as in the US, suggesting the systemic risk is less this side of the Atlantic. 
  • US Initial Jobless Claims, out at 12:30 GMT on Thursday, may impact USD. The figure was 236K in the previous week. If it shows a rise, it could weigh on USD but push Cable higher; if lower, it could support USD and weigh on GBP/USD.
  • Friday sees the release of April Nonfarm Payrolls, expected to show the economy added 179K new jobs. A substantially higher-than-expected result could support USD and weigh on Cable and vice versa for a lower-than-expected print.

GBP/USD technical analysis: Sideways in an Uptrend

GBP/USD hits new highs in the upper 1.25s after the FOMC policy decision but then backtracks lower. Nevertheless, the overall trend is bullish. Thus, Pound Sterling longs are generally favored over shorts. 

Given the dominant trend remains bullish price will probably continue breaking to fresh highs. A decisive break and close above the 1.2590 highs set on May 3 would likely lead to a continuation higher to the following critical resistance level at circa 1.2680. 

Decisive breaks are usually characterized by moves that begin with a solid green daily bar that breaks above the ceiling level or key high, with the price closing near the day’s highs. Alternatively, three consecutive green bars above the ceiling can confirm breakouts. Such insignia ensure that the break is not a ‘false break’ or bull trap. 

The Relative Strength Index (RSI) shows a bearish price divergence, although it is not acute enough to draw any conclusions. The RSI at the April 28 peak of 1.2583 was higher than at the 1.2590 May 3 peak, suggesting the most recent ascent lacked momentum. This is indicative of mild underlying weakness. 

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