British pound plunges to new low

  • People walk past a currency exchange bureau in London, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The pound today slumped to its lowest level against the dollar since 1971, after the Chancellor hinted more tax cuts would follow those he announced last week. The pound dipped as low as $1.0349 per U.S. dollar early Monday but then rebounded to $1.0671, down 2.3%. (AP Photo/David Cliff) David Cliff

  • People walk past a currency exchange bureau in London, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The pound today slumped to its lowest level against the dollar since 1971, after the Chancellor hinted more tax cuts would follow those he announced last week. The pound dipped as low as $1.0349 per U.S. dollar early Monday but then rebounded to $1.0671, down 2.3%. (AP Photo/David Cliff) David Cliff

  • A woman walks past a currency exchange bureau in London, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The pound today slumped to its lowest level against the dollar since 1971, after the Chancellor hinted more tax cuts would follow those he announced last week. The pound dipped as low as $1.0349 per U.S. dollar early Monday but then rebounded to $1.0671, down 2.3%. (AP Photo/David Cliff) David Cliff

  • FILE - Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng arrives in Downing Street in London, on Sept. 7, 2022 for the first cabinet meeting since Liz Truss was installed as British Prime Minister a day earlier. Britain’s Conservative government is expected to publish an emergency budget statement Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 outlining how it plans to slash taxes, tame soaring inflation and boost economic growth as a recession looms on the horizon. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File) Alberto Pezzali

  • FILE - British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks to the media on the occasion of her visit at the Empire State building in New York, on Sept. 20, 2022. Britain’s Conservative government is expected to publish an emergency budget statement Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 outlining how it plans to slash taxes, tame soaring inflation and boost economic growth as a recession looms on the horizon. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP, File) Toby Melville

  • People walk past a currency exchange bureau in London, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The pound today slumped to its lowest level against the dollar since 1971, after the Chancellor hinted more tax cuts would follow those he announced last week. The pound dipped as low as $1.0349 per U.S. dollar early Monday but then rebounded to $1.0671, down 2.3%. (AP Photo/David Cliff) David Cliff

  • People walk past a currency exchange bureau in London, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The pound today slumped to its lowest level against the dollar since 1971, after the Chancellor hinted more tax cuts would follow those he announced last week. The pound dipped as low as $1.0349 per U.S. dollar early Monday but then rebounded to $1.0671, down 2.3%. (AP Photo/David Cliff) David Cliff

Published: 9/26/2022 8:46:25 PM

LONDON — The British pound fell to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar early Monday after Treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng pledged a sweeping package of tax cuts, fueling concerns about the government’s economic policy as the United Kingdom teeters toward recession.

The pound fell as low as $1.0373, its lowest level since the decimalization of the currency in 1971, before rallying to above $1.06 in London late afternoon trading.

The weakening currency piles pressure on the U.K.’s new Conservative government, which has gambled that slashing taxes — and increasing borrowing to compensate — will spur economic growth. Many economists say it’s more likely to fuel already high inflation, push down the pound and drive up the cost of U.K. government borrowing — a potential perfect storm of economic headwinds.

The Bank of England said it is monitoring the drop in the pound and would not hesitate to boost interest rates to control inflation after doing so just last week. The central bank reiterated its intention to make a “full assessment’’ of the government’s tax and spending plans at its next meeting scheduled for November.

In a bid to reassure markets, the Treasury announced it would set out a medium-term fiscal plan on Nov. 23, alongside an economic forecast by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility. But the pound sank by two U.S. pennies after both statements.

The British currency has been hammered since Friday, when Kwarteng announced the U.K.’s biggest tax cuts in 50 years.

The government plans to cut 45 billion pounds ($49 billion) in taxes as well as spend billions to help consumers and businesses struggling with high energy bills that are driving a cost-of-living crisis. The combination has sparked investor concern about spiraling government debt.

Kwarteng and Prime Minister Liz Truss, who took office three weeks ago, are betting that lower taxes and reduced bureaucracy eventually will generate enough additional tax revenue to cover government spending. Economists suggest it is unlikely the gamble will pay off.

Opposition Labour Party economy spokeswoman Rachel Reeves accused the government of “a return to trickle-down economics, an idea that has been tried, has been tested and has failed.”

“They are not gambling with their money — they are gambling with yours,” she told an audience at the party’s annual conference Monday.

The new and untested Truss, who replaced Boris Johnson as prime minister on Sept. 6, also faces pressure from a nervous Conservative Party, which faces an election within two years.

Some Conservatives have welcomed the tax-cutting moves as a return to free-market values after years of state intervention in the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. But others worry it is unconservative for the government to rack up huge debts that taxpayers will eventually have to pay.

Monday’s turbulence follows a 3% fall in the pound Friday, the biggest one-day drop against the U.S. dollar since Johnson announced Britain’s first COVID-19 lockdown on March 18, 2020. Before that, the pound lost more than 10% of its value immediately after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 before rebounding.

The sense of a government losing control led some to compare current events with Sept. 16, 1992 — “Black Wednesday” — when a collapsing pound against the backdrop of high inflation forced the U.K. to crash out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which was meant to stabilize exchange rates. It took the U.K. years to recover from the economic shock.

Kwarteng insisted the government was acting responsibly — and said there were more tax cuts to come.

“We’ve only been here 19 days. I want to see, over the next year, people retain more of their income because I believe that it is the British people that are going to drive this economy,” he told the BBC.

As it is cutting taxes, the government plans to cap electricity and natural gas prices for homes and businesses to help cushion price rises that have been triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine and have sent inflation to a near 40-year high of 9.9%.

This program will cost 60 billion pounds, and the government will borrow to finance it, Kwarteng said Friday.

He said Sunday that it was the right policy because the government needed to help consumers squeezed by the unprecedented pressures caused by the war in Ukraine and the pandemic.

Britain can afford the cost because its debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is the second lowest among the Group of Seven large industrial economies, Kwarteng said. He said the government would announce a “medium-term fiscal plan” for reducing the nation’s debt in the coming months.

Sterling is not the only currency showing weakness. The euro also hit a fresh 20-year low against the dollar as the war in Ukraine drives fears about recession and energy security ahead of the winter.

While the pound’s slide has accelerated in recent days, the currency has fallen steadily against the dollar for more than a year as investors sought the security of U.S. assets amid the global economic shocks.

The pound’s decline against the dollar also has been fueled by the Bank of England not keeping pace with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s efforts to rein in inflation. Britain’s central bank on Thursday raised interest rates by half a percentage point, compared with large three-quarter-point increase by the Fed last week. But U.K. inflation is the highest among major economies, and the bank predicted that Britain could already be in recession, which it defines as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

The bank’s rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee is not due to meet again until Nov. 3, but many economists say it may have to hike rates sooner if the pound’s slide continues.

“There’s been this dramatic loss of confidence in the government’s economic management. But now the ball is in the Bank of England’s court,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown.


Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy