Muted demand for extra sterling in Bank of England special auction

 
Jake Cordell
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The Bank of England is holding three extra auctions for sterling to ensure there is enough liquidity in the system around the time of the EU referendum
The Bank of England is holding three extra auctions for sterling to ensure there is enough liquidity in the system around the time of the EU referendum (Source: Getty)

UK lenders tapped up the Bank of England for an extra £2.5bn worth of cash in the first of a series of extra liquidity auctions ahead of the EU referendum.

Threadneedle Street has added three extra rounds to its monthly bout of asset-swapping with UK banks, where it lets them get their hands on currency reserves - cash - by temporarily exchanging it for other assets on their balance sheets. The transaction then reverses after six months with the banks getting their original collateral back.

Read more: We asked 12 experts what the FTSE 100 and sterling will do before the referendum

This is the first time the Bank has conducted more than one of these auctions in a single month. There will be another auction next Tuesday - two days before the EU referendum and then an additional one on 28 June as a precautionary measure to ensure there is enough liquidity in the system.

In the standard monthly repurchase agreement (Repo) auction which took place last week, banks agreed swaps worth around £3.2bn, so today's figure of £2.5bn - the lowest monthly amount in a single round since February - does not suggest banks are wildly concerned about the levels of cash on their balance sheet.

Nevertheless, given that this round took place one week after the regular monthly auction and just one week before the second extra one, demand for the Bank's sterling is still at highest level in a single calendar month for the last two years.

Spikes in the value of Repo auctions for sterling do appear to correlate with periods of political uncertainty. In March, the first auction which took place after the date of the referendum had been set, banks demanded £4.3bn of cash in the repo offer - the most since the offer in May 2015 which took place just four days after the general election.

This morning, the financial markets were rocked by the latest developments in the EU referendum which showed the Leave side could be pulling ahead, as sterling slid against the dollar and the FTSE 100 crashed below 6,000 points for the first time since February.

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