The British pound has steadied on Thursday. In the European session, GBP/USD is trading at 1.2053, up 0.25%. This follows a sharp drop of 1.2% a day earlier.
UK inflation continues to fall but remains disturbingly high. Headline inflation fell to 10.1% in January, down from 10.5% in December and below the consensus of 10.3%. The drop in inflation is welcome news, but food prices, a key driver of inflation, surged by 16.8% in January. With inflation still in double digits, the Bank of England will have to continue raising rates, with the most likely scenario being a 25-basis increase at the Mar. 22 meeting. The market probability of a 25-bp hike rose as high as 73% on Wednesday before dipping to 66% today, according to Refinitiv data.
In the US, retail sales delivered an impressive gain of 3% in January, above the estimate of 1.8%. This was a strong rebound from the December reading of -1.1% and marked the largest gain since January 2022. This positive release follows the January inflation report that ticked lower to 6.4% but was higher than expected. These strong numbers translated into strong gains for the US dollar on Wednesday, as the Fed will likely raise rates even higher in order to put the brakes on the strong economy.
The UK wraps up the week with retail sales on Friday. The markets are braced for bad news, with an estimate of -5.5% y/y for the headline figure (-5.8% prior) and -5.3% for the core rate (-6.1%). A weak retail sales report could sour investors on the pound and send the currency lower.
- GBP/USD tested resistance at 1.2071 earlier in the day. The next resistance line is 1.2180
- 1.1958 and 1.1838 are providing support