In a surprising turn of events, the British pound witnessed a decline against both the US dollar and the euro on Wednesday, following the release of disappointing economic data that indicated a more significant contraction in British economic output for the month of July than initially anticipated.
Sterling slipped 0.4% against the US dollar to $1.2449, putting it on track for its most substantial daily drop in a week, provided these losses persist. Concurrently, the euro strengthened by 0.2% against the British pound, reaching 86.27 pence, marking its highest level in a month.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK economy experienced a contraction of 0.5% in July, a figure that surpassed the earlier expectations of a 0.2% contraction. This contraction represents the most significant monthly drop in output since December 2022.
Paul Dales, Chief UK Economist at Capital Economics, commented on the situation, stating, “The decline in GDP in July suggests that underlying growth has lost momentum since earlier in the year. That would make sense given that the dampening effect of higher interest rates should be starting to be felt a bit harder now.”
The Bank of England has been steadily raising interest rates, with a total of 14 rate hikes implemented since December 2021, resulting in rates reaching a 15-year high of 5.25%.
Money market traders are now pricing in a roughly 75% probability of another rate increase at the upcoming policy announcement next week, alongside a 25% chance that rates will remain unchanged.
The ONS identified several other contributing factors that weighed on economic growth in July, including strikes in hospitals and schools, as well as adverse weather conditions that impacted the retail and construction sectors.
As investors digest this unexpected economic contraction, financial markets will remain attentive to the Bank of England’s upcoming policy decisions and their potential impact on the pound’s performance. The UK’s economic outlook in the face of these developments will continue to be a focal point for analysts and market participants alike.