Pound jumps as Britain, EU near Brexit deal on financial services

Return to sender: The UK and the EU are on song for a financial services agreement. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2018

Pound jumps as Britain, EU near Brexit deal on financial services

  • Britain’s Brexit ministry said progress was being made on reaching a financial services deal
  • Many top bankers fear that Brexit will slowly undermine London’s position as the world’s biggest international financial center

LONDON: A deal giving London, the world’s largest center of international finance, basic access to EU financial markets after Brexit is nearly done, a British official said.
Such a deal would give the UK a level of access to the EU similar to that of major US and Japanese firms, while tying it to many EU finance rules for years to come.
“We are making progress,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
But the official said the financial services deal would be based around the EU’s existing “equivalence” system — far short of the deep and preferential post-Brexit market access that many have been hoping for.
Another British official said that while there was progress, nothing was finalized yet.
The financial services deal was part of the overall Brexit deal that Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to strike by the end of the year at the latest, the second official said.
Britain’s Brexit ministry said progress was being made on reaching a financial services deal, while the European Commission had no immediate comment.
Many top bankers fear that Brexit will slowly undermine London’s position as the world’s biggest international financial center, and a Reuters survey found that, so far, just over 600 are moving away. Global banks have already reorganized some operations ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU, due on March 29.
The Times newspaper reported that a tentative deal had been reached on all aspects of a future partnership on services, as well as the exchange of data. The pound jumped following the report, extending gains in early trade to reach $1.2914.
Britain is currently home to the world’s largest number of banks and hosts the largest commercial insurance market.
About €6 trillion ($6.82 trillion) or 37 percent of Europe’s financial assets are managed in the UK capital, almost twice the amount of its nearest rival, Paris.
In addition, London dominates Europe’s €5.2 trillion investment banking industry.
Since Britain voted to leave the EU more than two years ago, some of the world’s most powerful finance companies in London have been searching for a way to preserve the existing cross-border flow of trading after Brexit.
The tentative deal being discussed falls far short of that.
Currently, inside the EU, banks and insurers in Britain enjoy unfettered access to customers across the bloc in all financial activities.
Equivalence, however, covers a more limited range of business and excludes major activities such as commercial bank lending. Law firm Hogan Lovells has estimated that equivalence rules cover just a quarter of all EU cross-border financial services business.
Supporters of Brexit had hoped that leaving the EU would allow them to dispense with EU rules on financial services, such as caps on bankers’ bonuses, to turbocharge London as a financial hub.
Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Wednesday that UK financial rules should stay aligned with those in the EU after Brexit, a basic condition for Brussels to grant equivalence.


Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

Updated 23 August 2019

Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

  • The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks
  • Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter

WASHINGTON: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent no clear signal Friday that the Fed will further cut interest rates this year but said it would “act as appropriate” to sustain the expansion — phrasing that analysts see as suggesting rate cuts.
Powell said President Donald Trump’s trade wars have complicated the Fed’s ability to set interest rates and have contributed to a global economic slowdown.
Speaking to a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell didn’t give financial markets explicit guidance on whether or how many rate cuts might be coming the rest of the year. The Fed cut rates last month for the first time in a decade, and financial markets have baked in the likelihood of more rate cuts this year.
The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks. He pointed to increasing evidence of a global economic slowdown and suggested that uncertainty from Trump’s trade wars has contributed to it.
Reacting to the speech Friday, Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter:
“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!” Trump tweeted. “It is incredible that they can ‘speak’without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work “brilliantly” with both, and the US will do great.”
Trump added:
“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?“
Powell’s speech comes against the backdrop of a vulnerable economy, with the financial world seeking clarity on whether last month’s rate decision likely marked the start of a period of easier credit.
The confusion only heightened in the days leading to the Jackson Hole conference, at which Powell gave the keynote address. Minutes of the Fed’s July meeting released Wednesday showed that although officials voted 8-2 to cut their benchmark rate by a quarter-point, there was a wider divergence of opinion on the committee than the two dissenting votes against the rate cut had indicated.
The minutes showed that two Fed officials favored a more aggressive half-point rate cut, while some others adopted the polar opposite view: They felt the Fed shouldn’t cut rates at all.
The minutes depicted the rate cut as a “mid-cycle adjustment,” the phrase Powell had used at his news conference after the rate cut. That wording upset traders who interpreted the remark as suggesting that the Fed might not be preparing for a series of rate cuts to support an economy that’s struggling with a global slowdown and escalating uncertainty from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
There was even a difference of opinion among the Fed members who favored a rate cut, the minutes showed, with some concerned most about subpar inflation and others worried more about the threats to economic growth.
Comments Thursday from Fed officials gathering in Jackson Hole reflected the committee’s sharp divisions, including some reluctance to cut rates at least until the economic picture changes.
“I think we should stay here for a while and see how things play out,” said Patrick Harker, the president of the Fed’s Philadelphia regional bank.
Esther George, president of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank and one of the dissenting votes in July, said, “While I see downside risk, I wasn’t ready to act on that relative to the performance of the economy.”
George said she saw some areas of strength, including very low unemployment and inflation now closer to the Fed’s target level. She said her decision on a possible future rate cut would depend on forthcoming data releases.
Robert Kaplan, president of the Fed’s Dallas branch indicated that he might be prepared to support further rate cuts.
If “we are seeing some weakness in manufacturing and global growth, then it may be good to take some action,” Kaplan said.
George was interviewed on Fox Business Network; Harker and Kaplan spoke on CNBC.
The CME Group, which tracks investor bets on central bank policy, is projecting the likelihood that the Fed will cut rates at least twice more before year’s end.
Adding to the pressures on the Fed, Trump has kept up his attacks on the central bank and on Powell personally, arguing that Fed officials have kept rates too high and should be cutting them aggressively.
Trump has argued that a full percentage-point rate reduction in coming months would be appropriate — a suggestion that most economists consider extravagantly excessive as well as an improper intrusion on the Fed’s political independence.
The president contends that lower rates in other countries have caused the dollar to rise in value and thereby hurt US export sales.
“Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “They put us at a disadvantage against our competition.”
Earlier in the week, he had told reporters, “If the Fed would do its job, you would see a burst of growth like you have never seen before.”
Powell has insisted that the White House criticism has had no effect on the Fed’s deliberations over interest rate policy.