Sterling versus euro – gloomy forecasts, costs increase and existential risk

Winter promises tough times for the pound and the euro but even tougher times for consumers if you have dependencies in both currencies.
sterling versus euro
Not the Brexit dividend we expected – sterling versus euro.

Sterling versus euro? I’ve been asked to look at where we believe sterling will move in relation to the euro. Some people are paid in euros and repatriate the money back and vice versa, while others are buying homes in the EU and must transfer cash. On the property investment side, the focus is on the potential coming onslaught of inflation and hedging against that, as property can be a natural hedge.

Reading the last two sets of MPC minutes there are references to the impact of Russia on energy and gas prices. Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness reminds us that the blame instinct isn’t useful. We use simplistic finger pointing, and want a guilty party to punch in the face, and that derails our ability to develop a fact-based understanding. In short, be careful what you read.

So where will the sterling versus euro exchange go?

Fundamentally it revolves around many variables of which many are guessed. The two key variables for both the eurozone and sterling are inflation and how the economy is holding up. Last week, I stated that a 0.5 per cent raise was likely and if it came with positive strength in the UK economy (sadly not), sterling would rise. A raise of 0.25 per cent wouldn’t have been good for sterling.

There are downsides to both the euro and sterling. Recent minutes at the Bank of England had given hope for the UK economy with growth exceeding gloomy forecasts. What a difference a month makes, as the most recent minutes tell a different story. The committee voted with an 8-1 majority to increase rates by the expected 0.5 per cent, as CPI inflation is expected to rise from 9.4 per cent, to just over 13 per cent in Q4 of this year.

This was coupled by the news (see above note re ‘someone to blame’) that inflationary pressures had intensified after wholesale gas prices have nearly doubled since May. The UK takes only 5-8 per cent of its oil and gas from Russia, with Qatar, Norway and the USA being the largest importers to the UK in 2021. A weak sterling exacerbates the cost increase particularly against currencies that are strengthening like the dollar. Things just cost more.

As the Fed increases rates, the dollar increases and pushes the world down around it as it devalues all the other currencies. More expensive money slows lending, and economic activity slows as investment into the economy retreats.

power station - sterling versus euro

Poor strategic management management of energy needs

The UK is exposed to winter prices as its only major storage facility was shut in 2017 by Centrica as the UK government refused to continue to support that strategic reserve. Now the UK sells its excess in the summer and buys off Norway in the winter. Enjoy those prices.

The UK’s economy and sterling has struggled since Brexit. Per capita income is up 3.8 per cent in real terms in the UK and 8.5 per cent in the remaining 27 states. The UK’s growth is expected to be the lowest in the G20 and the office for budget responsibility says it still expects a hit to the economy of 4 per cent from Brexit with half of that impact yet to come.

Most economists view that the harder the stance from any new leader on Brexit, the greater the impact will be on sterling. Let’s remember that in May, Bank of America corp warned of ‘existential‘ risks to sterling. Strong words.

As the UK has a large current account deficit, sterling becomes very sensitive to bad news. It has run a current account deficit for most of the last 25 years.

Reliance on Russia could cripple industry

The euro, through inflationary pressures and its reliance on Russian gas, and the dramatic impact on Germany’s manufacturing powerhouse, is very much at risk. There are many who have commented on Putin using the disruptions in the Nordstream to squeeze the EU, particularly because of its support and policies regarding NATO and the Ukraine. Your guess is as good as mine where that will go but it could be crippling for Germany and in turn the euro.

Of c22 commentators, the average has £100 sterling offering c£116 in three months from now with the euro being stronger. I’m not sure I agree with that, I think it will be higher.

If you are sending money abroad, avoid high street banks. They can be five per cent more expensive than, say Torfx, the currency exchange broker.

Furthermore, if you are keeping an eye on the market and see a surge, you can ask the broker to forward price that contract securing that deal.

Peter McGahan writes a weekly column for 50connect, if you have a question about the content of this column you can call 01872 222422, email [email protected] or visit

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Written by 1:03 pm News & Views, Finance