The British pound is lower against the US dollar on Friday as the greenback staged an end-of-week comeback and UK retail sales saw a shock fifth-month of declines in December.
GBP/USD was lower by 22 pips (-0.16%) to 1.3051 as of 1.30pm GMT with the currency pair set to finish the week well beyond the 1.30 psychological level, albeit of its highs for the day.
Another set of weak economic data for the United Kingdom is reigniting bets that the Bank of England rate will decide to cut interest rates in January. The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data on Friday showing retail sales slumped by -0.6% in December, rocking expectations of a 0.7% rise.
An early run up in the British pound before the data was released at 9.30am GMT means the daily change percentage disguises the size of the decline after the data’s release. GBP/USD fell from a high of the day at 1.312 to 1.303 in the immediate aftermath of the shock result, only to recoup some losses later.
It marks the fifth consecutive monthly decline in retail sales. The makes it the longest stretch of retail contraction since the ONS started the reports in 1996.
While assessing the damage and gauging how durable the retail sales weakness might be, it is worth remembering that the UK was holding a general election during the month of December. It seems likely that the political uncertainty weighed on the minds of consumers deciding whether to go the extra mile on their Christmas presents.
The dollar looks set to end the week lower against the British pound and slightly lower against a basket of major currencies. Economic data from the US has been largely supportive of the dollar. The biggest losses have been felt against the Chinese yuan after the US decided to stop labelling China a currency manipulator as part of the US-China trade deal. The yuan, also called the renminbi added to it gains, pushing the dollar lower on Friday when China GDP growth in the fourth quarter met expectations.
Later Friday US industrial production data for December is expected to show a monthly contraction of -0.2%.