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Sterling tumbles to 2020 lows as investors dash for safety

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The pound dropped sharply on Friday, losing nearly 1 per cent against the euro and the dollar as worries about the fast-spreading coronavirus sent investors out of currencies deemed riskier.

[LONDON] The pound dropped sharply on Friday, losing nearly 1 per cent against the euro and the dollar as worries about the fast-spreading coronavirus sent investors out of currencies deemed riskier.

As investors rushed for the safe-haven Japanese yen, Swiss franc and US dollar, sterling fell to its lowest against the dollar since October. Other currencies closely linked to risk sentiment also tumbled - the Australian dollar fell 2 per cent.

Analysts said that while there was no sterling-specific news on Friday, Britain's finances had left it vulnerable - its large current account deficit means the country depends on overseas investment.

Investors are also fretting about Britain's negotiations with the European Union over a trade deal and whether a UK budget next month will include much more spending, which many investors say is necessary to boost economic growth.

"While country-by-country tallies of Covid-19 shows an un-alarming total of 15 in the UK, its near 5 per cent current account deficit means a tightening of financial market conditions leaves currencies like the pound vulnerable to the downside," MUFG analysts said in a note.

Sterling skidded to as low as US$1.2760 in late London trading before recovering to US$1.2775, down 0.8 per cent on the day.

Versus the euro the pound dropped to as low as 86.08 pence. That was the weakest level for sterling since November and means the pound has erased all of its gains made in the run-up to the British general election in December. 

REUTERS