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  • GBP remains underpinned on Friday amid the sense that a Brexit deal is close, so long as leaders can make the big decisions.
  • GBP/USD has trades in the upper half of the 1.3200-1.3310 range that it has been in for most of the week.

GBP/USD trades at the top of today’s 1.3260-1.3290ish range, having just actually set fresh highs of the day at 1.3296. The pair currently trades with gains of around 30 pips or 0.2% on the day.

Brexit, falling Covid-19 prevalence, strong data all helping GBP

GBP remains underpinned by the sense that a Brexit deal is right there to be had; member states have reportedly been told by the EU Commission that 95% of the future EU/UK relationship treaty has now been completed. Other reports suggest that there is broad agreement on most issues, but key differences remain in three areas (which will invariably be on the topics of fisheries, level playing field and state aid).

That suggests that a deal is very close indeed, with most of the small print having already been hashed out. All that is left now is for top-level officials (UK PM Boris Johnson, French President Macron and EU Commission President von der Leyen) to make the tough political decisions on the outstanding issues, and then it looks as though a deal can be finalised and signed within a matter of days.

Not that getting across the finish line will be easy. Top-level officials making the final and toughest decisions will need to be able to take the deal home and present it as a win for the UK, and as a win for the various EU states. That means UK PM Johnson needs to be able to show that his tougher stance on the EU characteristic of the last year has won the UK additional and favourable concessions, while French President Macron will need to be able to return to French fishing communities that rely on UK waters not looking as though he sold-out to big industry that has been pushing for a deal.

Elsewhere, the latest estimate from the UK Office for National Statistics on the UK’s Covid-19 R rate (the average number of people each Covid-19 infected person spreads the virus too) has dropped from an estimated 1.0-1.2 last week to 1.0-1.1 this week, implying the daily growth rate of 0-2%, down from last week’s estimate of 1-3%. The hope is that, almost exactly 2 weeks on from lockdown (when you would first expect to start seeing the number of new infections dropping), the UK will see a more sustained drop in the R rate below 1 (meaning the prevalence is shrinking) over the coming weeks. If this turns out to be the case, this ought to be a marginal GBP positive.

On the topic of marginal GBP positives; data hasn’t mattered very much to GBP over recent months amid the pandemic and ongoing Brexit negotiations, but Friday morning retail sales numbers for October were very strong. Retail sales were up 1.2% MoM in October, implying that the UK consumer was in very good shape heading into the November lockdown. Though the data was strong and has contributed to a marginally firmer GBP today, the main question on traders’ minds this morning was instead wondering how well retail sales will hold up in November, the firm month of lockdown 2.0.

GBP/USD stuck within short-term 1.3200-1.3310 range, but long-term outlook remains bullish

Since breaking above 1.3200 on Tuesday’s Asia session, GBP/USD has been rangebound between the 1.3200 and 1.3310 areas, buffeted (much like other currencies and asset classes) by the waxing and waning of risk on (USD weakness) and risk-off (USD strength), though, amid the broader sense of Brexit optimism, remains bullish in the long run.

GBP/USD continues trade close to the upper bounds of a long-term upwards trend channel whose upper bound links the 16 September, 21 October and 10, 11 and 18 November highs. In order for the upper bound of this upwards trend channel to come into play again, GBP/USD will need to rally above recent highs at 1.3310 and advance towards 1.3330.