Pound suffers the London Mayor Johnson effect as he supports Brexit
The pound hit its lowest level against the dollar in almost seven years on concerns about a possible UK exit from the European Union. At one stage the pound was down as much as 2.4% at $1.4058, its lowest level since March 2009, before later recovering.
The move follows London Mayor Boris Johnson joining the campaign to leave the EU after Prime Minister David Cameron set a June referendum date. The steep fall adds to losses made by the pound over recent months.
So far this year, fears of a British exit from the EU - dubbed 'Brexit' - have already pushed the pound down by more than 4% against the US dollar. Analysts said that was likely to continue to direct sentiment until the vote.
Today's weakness appears to reflect an increased probability of Brexit after political reaction to the new deal on EU membership was more split than the PM would have hoped, said Sam Hill, senior UK economist at RBC Capital Markets.
If the pound finishes at its lows for the day, it will be the biggest one-day loss since the Bank of England cut interest rates to 0.5% in 2009 and started its economic stimulus program known as quantitative easing.
The pound has already dropped more than 17% against the dollar in the last 18 months, partly due to the outlook for UK interest rates. Whereas the US raised rates last year, Bank of England governor Mark Carney has ruled out such a rise for now.
As a result sterling is seen as less attractive for investors, continuing to fall from the $1.7165 peak seen on 1 July, 2014. A weak pound helps exporters by making British goods cheaper on international markets. It also makes the UK a better value destination for tourists.
However, a weaker pound makes imports more expensive, possibly hurting consumers and businesses that rely on foreign goods.
Against the Euro, the pound is down 1% to €1.2802. Against the yen, the pound has slumped to 160.075 yen, its lowest since late 2013.