Sterling jumped to a 4-1/2 month high against the euro on Wednesday after British manufacturers reported robust growth for October, cementing expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates on Thursday.
Though the market is almost completely priced in for a rate rise decision from the BoE this week, investors are watching closely for any signs that it could spell the start of a longer-term tightening cycle.
Wednesday’s survey showed UK factories reporting stronger growth than expected last month, as well as rising inflation pressures.
The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) from IHS Markit/CIPS rose to 56.3 in October, from an upwardly revised 56.0 in September. This was above its long-run average and bucked economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll for a slight fall.
“The three-month average was the highest of the year so far… so the pound rallied,” said Stephen Gallo, European head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets.
Against the euro, sterling hit highs not seen since mid-June, reaching 87.37 pence after the data release. It eased back slightly to 87.49 pence, still up 0.3 percent on the day.
The pound also climbed against the dollar, hitting a two-week high of $1.3321, up from $1.3283 before the data.
Figures from mortgage lender Nationwide earlier in the day showed British annual house price growth edge up to a three-month high in October, although the outlook for the housing market remained subdued.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is expected to announce the interest rate decision at 1230 GMT on Thursday, with the market pricing in an 88-percent chance of a rate hike, according to analysts.
“Although a hike cannot be guaranteed – Mark Carney is famously referred to as the unreliable boyfriend – it is highly likely that the Bank will hike rates otherwise its credibility could be on the line,” said Kathleen Brooks, research director at City Index.
Signs of progress in Brexit talks have also given a boost to sterling this week, including comments by the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who said on Tuesday he was ready to move onto the next stage of talks.
“Behind the scenes in London things are still simmering though as the government still does not seem to agree about its future course. As a result I would treat the current sterling rally with great caution,” Antje Praefcke, an analyst at Commerzbank, wrote in a note to clients.