Pound falls to its lowest level in 35 years

18 March 2020, 22:50

The pound has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years
The pound has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The pound has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as investors pull out over coronavirus fears.

Traders have flocked to the safety of the US dollar as global markets reel from the coronavirus pandemic.

Sterling was down by as much as 4.4% against the greenback on Wednesday, with one pound buying only 1.153 dollars, after its value tumbled further in afternoon trading.

It marks the lowest point for the currency since 1985, when the US deliberately devalued its currency.

Analysts said on Wednesday that it was perhaps misleading to speak of a falling pound, as the story was more about a rising dollar.

"In a crisis like this, king dollar reigns supreme," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

Ranko Berich at Monex Europe, a foreign exchange firm, said: "Idiosyncratic factors such as the UK's monetary and fiscal response or Brexit are beside the point: this is about the US dollar, which is proving unstoppable as global financial markets stare into the abyss of crisis-like conditions."

The dollar was also up by around 0.55% against the euro, the Japanese yen, the Swiss franc, the Canadian dollar, the Hong Kong dollar, and several other currencies.

The fall in the pound even surpassed the so-called flash crash of October 2016 when the exchange rate bottomed out at 1.195 dollars to the pound.

The pound also fell by as much as 2.7% against the euro, with one pound buying 1.066.

Rishi Sunak announced new financial measures yesterday
Rishi Sunak announced new financial measures yesterday. Picture: PA

But Mr Wilson warned against simply putting the pound's weakness down to the strength of the greenback.

The euro might be down against the dollar, but it is still only making half the losses that sterling is racking up.

"Whilst (a strong dollar is) the main reason for the pound's decline, there are clearly other factors at work. The UK Government's massive fiscal package undoubtedly means more borrowing for the UK economy - how do we pay for all this?" he said.

Mr Wilson added: "Concerns about what the implications are on Brexit from the coronavirus may also be a factor, whilst we have also seen a sharp downgrade of UK growth forecasts - but Britain is not alone on that front by any means."

It comes just one days after Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised £330 billion of government backed loans to help businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Sunak told the Commons: "The Government will stand behind businesses small and large.

"I can announce today an unprecedented package of Government backed and guaranteed loans to support business to get through this.

"Today I am making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees, equivalent to 15% of our GDP.

"I said whatever it takes, and I meant it."

He also announced there will be a three month mortgage holiday for anyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Sunak said the ongoing pandemic was something "we have never experienced an economic crisis in peace time like this one."

The policy is being put in place to help homeowner "get back on their feet".

There was, however, no measures announced for anyone who rents their home.

Mr Sunak added he would "go much further to support people's financial security" in the coming days. 

"In particular, I will work with trade unions and business groups to urgently develop new forms of employment support to help protect people's jobs and their incomes through this period."