Sterling sank in Asia on Friday after British elections seemed to have left no one party with a clear claim to power, sideswiping investors who had already weathered major risk events in the United States and Europe. The pound dived over two U.S. cents or more than 1 percent in a matter of seconds, with most stocks and bond markets relatively unscathed, awaiting more results. An exit poll showed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority, a shock result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks. But by 0713 GMT only a few seats had been declared, and the BBC reported that 76 seats appeared too close to call. For the latest updates, click. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were off just 0.1 percent, while Nikkei futures pointed to a modestly firmer start for Japanese shares. The exit poll predicted the ruling Conservatives would win 314 seats in the 650-member parliament and the opposition Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner. Betting agencies were already taking wagers on whether May would lose her job. “It’s clear that the election is a humiliation for the Tories, who blew a massive poll lead in just a few weeks,” said Sean Callow, senior currency analyst at Westpac. He predicted a hung parliament would strip the pound of all the gains made since the election was called and leave it wallowing around $1.2500.
“But given the patchy history of exit polls, this time we will have to wait for the seat by seat results, setting the pound up for a volatile day,” he added. By 2300 GMT sterling had indeed recouped a little ground to stand at $1.2785, from a trough at $1.27205, as dealers waited for a clearer picture of the election outcome.
The Japanese yen briefly gained on risk aversion, only to fade to 110.05 per dollar as the morning progressed. The euro steadied at $1.1203, having found support around $1.1193. It had slipped overnight when the European Central Bank cut forecasts for inflation and said it had not discussed scaling back its massive bond-buying campaign, sending bond yields to multi-month lows.
NO SMOKING GUN
Overnight, Wall Street had seemingly judged the testimony of former FBI director James Comey was not life-threatening to the administration of President Donald Trump. Comey accused Trump of firing him to try to undermine the investigation into possible collusion by his campaign team with Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 election.
“I think the market is taking less of an alarmist review of this situation because there is no smoking gun here,” said Jefferies & Co money market economist Thomas Simons. “So it’s not particularly impactful for thinking about… Trump’s economic agenda to go through.” The Dow rose 0.04 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.03 percent and the Nasdaq Composite 0.39 percent. In commodity markets, spot gold was a whisker lower at $1,277.95 an ounce. Oil prices remained subdued with Brent having settled at its lowest since Nov. 29, the eve of an OPEC production cut deal. U.S. crude futures were up 6 cents at $45.70 a barrel in early action, with Brent crude yet to trade.