Sterling steady over fears virus variant delays reopening



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

By Lawrence White

LONDON, Jun 3 (Reuters) – The pound held steady against the dollar on Thursday as investors wait on firmer signals as to whether growing cases of a COVID-19 variant first found in India could delay the wider reopening of the British economy due on June 21.

Sterling fell slightly to $1.41550 in early trade, having touched a three-year high of $1.4250 versus the dollar earlier this week.

The pound edged up 0.1% against the euro to 86.08 pence.

Britain’s currency has been a top performer among its G10 peers this year, thanks to positive sentiment around the country’s rapid vaccination programme and hopes its economy will therefore rebound quicker than some others.

Those hopes have frayed somewhat in recent weeks, however, as rising cases of the COVID variant now known as Delta led Prime Minister Boris Johnson to say he would be cautious in lifting restrictions on travel and social distancing.

The government is mulling a delay of a couple of weeks to the June 21 date for the lifting of the remaining restrictions, according to media reports on Wednesday.

Sterling’s recent strength against the dollar is also a result of investors betting on the U.S. currency falling as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have lately grown more cautious on that call, wondering whether a surprisingly strong U.S. economic rebound poses a threat to the assumption that interest rates will stay low for a long time.

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Investors will look to a weekly U.S. unemployment report later on Thursday and monthly jobs numbers on Friday for signs of the economic rebound and rising inflation.

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