The UK's changing fortunes

The UK's changing fortunes

POUND STERLING

Queues started forming at money changers when the British pound plummeted to a 31-year-low against the greenback, even before Brexit was confirmed last Friday.

In Singapore, the sterling opened at $1.99 and dropped to the day's low of $1.80 around 12.30pm.

While one Singaporean managed to buy $16,000 worth of pounds at $1.91 each, many others were turned away as money changers either refused to sell or claimed they had run out of stock.

Over the weekend, the demand for sterling showed no signs of abating.

Mr Mohamed Rafeeq, the owner of Clifford Gems & Money Exchange, told The New Paper yesterday that his customers were exchanging thousands of Singapore dollars for pounds at one go.

"Tomorrow, we have to buy more (pounds) to cater to the demand. The value (of the sterling) keeps coming down," said the secretary of the Money Changers Association.

SAFE HAVEN ASSETS

The price of gold surged in the days leading to the Brexit vote last Thursday because it was viewed as a safe haven - an investment that is expected to retain its value or even increase its value in times of market turbulence.

But IG Market strategist Bernard Aw observed yesterday morning that people were no longer buying gold. Instead, they were looking at the US dollar and Japanese yen.

Mr Aw said: "(My observations), at least for yesterday morning, is that it seems to be more forex trading rather than anything else. Government bonds were also quite in demand from Friday; they were bought out quite heavily."

He explained that gold, while popular, has no yield or returns.

"If you recall, the US Federal Reserve is planning to raise the interest rate. It's just a matter of how much... When the interest rate is higher, the US dollar is stronger. As a result, gold becomes weaker," he added.

PROPERTY

To sell or not to sell.

That is the question plaguing a man who wanted to be known only as Peter, 55.

The investor has been fretting over whether to hang on to his two-bedroom unit in London.

Peter told TNP he is adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

"The fact remains that there is a lack of supply of housing in London, which means investors like us will stand to gain," he said.

Inquiries on London real estate have been going up, as Singaporean property hunters look to cash in on the weaker pound, said London real estate firms.

Mrs Doris Tan, the regional director of Strawberry Star Group, said: "At this point, it's early days. The value of properties has dropped due to the weakening pound, but in the longer term, prices will continue to rise because of demand and supply.

"London will still be London. Its attractiveness will still be there. There will always be buyers."

OCBC Bank vice-president and senior investment strategist Vasu Menon, however, advises a more prudent approach.

"For those looking to buy properties in the UK, it may still be early days to capitalise on the troubles in the country to look out for bargains despite the sharp fall in the pound," he said.

"Purchasing a property is a long-term commitment and the decision to buy or sell should be premised on longer term factors that have become hazy after Brexit.

"The extent of the fallout from Brexit depends on the terms of separation between the UK and Europe, and this will only be worked out in the coming months."


This article was first published on June 28, 2016.
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