© Reuters

(Bloomberg) — The pound extended its decline to a two-month low as investors fretted over the possibility of a new lockdown in Britain.

The declined as much as 0.4% to $1.2680 after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that he can’t rule out a nationwide shutdown. Government bonds rallied, sending the yield across tenors down about two basis points.

Less than 12 hours earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set new rules to curb the rise in coronavirus cases, including a 10 p.m. closing time for pubs and restaurants and a recommendation for office workers to work from home if they can.

These announcements don’t “inspire confidence in U.K. services or the economic outlook,” said Kenneth Broux, a strategist at Societe Generale SA in London. Strength in the dollar and short covering are another contributing factor to the pound’s weakness following hawkish comments from Chicago Fed President Charles Evans.

The new U.K. restrictions have put an abrupt end to the government’s drive to open its economy and revive growth. The first nationwide lockdown that shuttered social and commercial activity in March triggered the U.K.’s worst recession in more than a century. But infection numbers have been spiking after the summer holidays, with daily confirmed cases around 4,000 over the past week.

Economic Pain

The new restrictions unveiled by Johnson — combined with the withdrawal of some fiscal stimulus and risks of a messy exit from the European Union when the transition period ends — mean there could be no economic growth in either the fourth quarter or the first three months of next year, according to Bank of America Global Research.

And if the government opts for a two-week shutdown of the U.K. hospitality sector, it may knock at least 2% off the nation’s gross domestic product and trigger further stimulus from the Treasury and Bank of England, according to {{0| JPMorgan (NYSE:) Chase}} & Co.

Raab was “doing his best to sink the pound,” said Valentin Marinov, the head of Group-of-10 foreign exchange strategy at Credit Agricole. “The pound should remain vulnerable ahead of today’s PMIs that could show first signs of outlook deterioration following the post-Covid-19 rebound over the summer.”

Economists are expecting a drop in a closely-watched survey of U.K. services and manufacturing published Wednesday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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