Sterling is being dragged down by the falling euro, but also the Bank of England just said it had eased monetary policy slightly today, which caught the market by surprise.
The Bank of England announced that it would transfer the interest it collects on the gilts it has bought under QE back to Her Majesty's Treasury. Treasury, in turn, plans on using those funds to retire debt. Therefore, the market will have somewhat few gilts and more cash. Q.E.D.
This might explain why the BOE did not extend the asset purchase program when it met earlier this week. In essence, recycling of the coupon back to Treasury, which will pay down its debt (by retiring gilts) is similar, King argues, to the BOE buying the gilts -- and removing them from the market.
Recall that there has been talk about the possibility that central banks could "forgive" its own government debt that it purchased under QE-like operations. The U.K., where the speculation appeared to run the highest, official denied it. The recycling of interest payments on the debt back to Treasury takes on a bit of the appearance.
However, note that central banks, including the Fed and ECB and BBK, do typically turn over their profits, or some part thereof, back to their respective Treasury departments. In some ways then the BOE's move is not really that unusual. It does raise questions about the inter-relationship between central banks and governments, which seem more complicated than the mantra about central bank independence would suggest.
Thus to ask, as some will, could the Federal Reserve do the same thing as the Bank of England. The answer is that in some respects it is already doing this when it transfers its profits. The one difference is the the BOE says that its Treasury will reduce the outstanding stock of gilts. When the Fed transfers profits to the Treasury it reduces the borrowing requirement of the Federal government. It does not reduce the current stock of Treasury debt, but it could ...
Sterling initially ticked lower against the euro, on the news, even though the euro was falling against the dollar. However, it quickly was overwhelmed by the selling pressure on the single currency and sterling recouped what was lost against the euro. It is, though, approaching important support against the dollar near the Oct 23 low of ~$1.5915. A break suggests $1.58 in the coming sessions.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.