Sterling licks its wounds after a flash crash that saw it dive 10 per cent in a matter of minutes. Computer-driven trading is seen as one cause of the sudden drop - but a growing nervousness over Brexit shows just how vulnerable sterling is. David Pollard reports.
It was a moment to shake, if not the world, then certainly, its currency markets. Sterling losing a tenth of its value in a matter of minutes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CIBC, HEAD OF FX STRATEGY, JEREMY STRETCH, SAYING: "We were seeing sterling under pressure in the overnight session, breaking down through the 1.26 threshold. I think that encouraged both stop-loss orders and also I think it triggered some options barriers. That exacerbated the moves, and of course once markets were moving relatively quickly in what were thin, illiquid Asian markets, then that encouraged a degree of algorithmic trading which then just amplified the move." Nobody's quite sure what triggered the sell-off. Some ask whether it was a so-called 'fat finger' or human error. Others noting it came after remarks from France's President Hollande - the EU must stand firm against Britain, he said. What is certain is that it caps a week where Brexit nerves have dominated. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CIBC, HEAD OF FX STRATEGY, JEREMY STRETCH, SAYING: "There's still plenty of reason to continue to stand aside from sterling and it's interesting that we're starting to see investors also starting to lighten government bond holdings i.e. gilts. So it's reflective of a loss of confidence in UK PLC as things stand." But computer-driven trading also playing its part in a vertiginous drop. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CIBC, HEAD OF FX STRATEGY, JEREMY STRETCH, SAYING: "I think it is a reflection or a reminder to markets that if we rely totally on computers and moving away from human interaction, we can get more aggressive moves." A weaker pound's good for exporters, of course, who sell their goods in sterling. But a 17 percent drop since the June 23 referendum will also push the price of imports - and therefore inflation - upwards. The lows seen in this 'flash crash' a strong pointer of where many traders see sterling going anyway.