Home Economy News Pound firm, British stocks set to rise after Labour party sweeps to power

Pound firm, British stocks set to rise after Labour party sweeps to power


By Amanda Cooper

LONDON (Reuters) -The pound held firm and British shares were set to rise on Friday after the centre-left Labour Party surged to a comprehensive win in a parliamentary election, affording investors some certainty after years of market volatility. 

As of 0600 GMT on Friday, Labour, led by Keir Starmer, had won 405 of the 650 seats in parliament, giving it a large majority with a handful of seats yet to declare.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has conceded defeat.

Sterling firmed slightly after the release of the exit polls, which proved to be broadly accurate, and was last trading around $1.2767. The pound was broadly unchanged against the euro, which was at 84.75 pence.

Futures linked to the FTSE 100 stock index were up 0.24%, slightly higher than those for Europe-wide blue chip stocks.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to be running (UK) equities in a market where the election is seen as non-event,” said Laura Foll, portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Investors.

“I’m hoping we’re going back to an era where boring is good and politics treads lighter in people’s lives,” she said, adding: “It will be a more gradual lifting (of confidence).”

Sterling has edged up since Sunak called the election in late May, earlier than anticipated. It is the strongest-performing major currency against the dollar this year, with a gain of 0.3%. 

On a trade-weighted basis, the pound is now back where it was in 2016, at the time of the Brexit vote, reflecting a belief among traders and investors that a period of intense market volatility, driven by political and economic tumult under the Conservatives, may be drawing to a close.

“We know Labour were going to win, so this doesn’t change much and this isn’t a game-changer for sterling. We now want to know what Labour’s plans are,” said Kenneth Broux, head of corporate research for FX and rates at Societe Generale (OTC:SCGLY).

“Investors have been long sterling and sentiment has been good and the results won’t change that.”

Echoing this sense of calm in the run-up to the election, the premium that investors demand for the extra risk of holding gilts rather than top-rated German 10-year bonds has remained stable this year around 160 basis points – a far cry from the 230 bps seen during a mini-budget crisis in 2022.

UK stocks have hit record highs this year, buoyed by a slow-growing but comparatively stable economy and decelerating inflation.


However, the memory of the market chaos triggered by former Prime minister Liz Truss’ “mini budget” of September 2022 is still relatively fresh in investors’ minds and Britain’s stretched finances will give any new government little leeway to increase spending. 

So preserving investor trust while tackling numerous economic challenges will be paramount.

“There is a lot of spending that (Labour) have pledged as well and only 20 billion pounds’ worth of fiscal headroom – give or take – so how those books are going to be balanced is a key question,” Pepperstone senior research analyst Michael Brown said.

“And this plan for 2.5% annual GDP growth is punchy, if I’m being kind, fanciful if I’m being slightly less kind and if we don’t get that growth relatively quickly, you could be looking at a pretty significant fiscal tightening going on,” he added. 

Britain has suffered from the highest inflation and some of the highest interest rates in the developed world in the last couple of years.

UK 10-year government bond yields have risen this year to around 4.2%, as investors have sold debt based on their assumption that British interest rates will take longer to fall than many had previously anticipated.

The Bank of England is widely expected to lower interest rates at either its August or September meetings. Investors are likely to quickly look beyond the results of Thursday’s election and towards monetary policy, analysts said.

“What’s going to be really interesting is there isn’t actually that much headroom for dramatic change in fiscal policy,” City Index senior markets strategist Fiona Cincotta said.

“So I don’t think there is anything that is going to massively move the market as far as these elections are concerned now until the Autumn Statement, so the focus is going to shift, probably pretty quickly, back to the Bank of England,” she said.

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