* Sudden pound plunge in thin conditions shocks markets
* Pound slid from $1.26 to $1.1378 in less than a minute
* Later bounces from low but still down 1.5 pct on day
* Jitters over "hard Brexit" take toll on sterling
(Updates prices, adds comments)
By Masayuki Kitano and Lisa Twaronite
SINGAPORE/TOKYO, Oct 7 Sterling plunged to a
31-year low on Friday as anxiety over a "hard" exit by Britain
from the European Union triggered a wave of selling, leaving the
currency vulnerable to further falls even as it recouped some
of the steep losses.
Earlier, the pound suddenly dived about 10 percent from
levels around $1.2600 to $1.1378 on some trading platforms. The
move occurred in a matter of seconds, in thin early Asian trade.
Sterling quickly bounced back to levels around $1.2500, and
after some choppy moves, it was last fetching $1.2432,
still down 1.5 percent on the day.
Sterling has been "on a precipice since Sunday, since
Theresa May and the March Brexit negotiations," said Sean
Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac.
"I think we've underestimated how many people had money
positions for a very wishy-washy Brexit, or even none."
French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday the
European Union needed to remain firm with Britain after it
appeared Prime Minister Theresa May had opted for a tougher exit
Global markets have been on edge in recent days on worries
about a "hard" exit by Britain from the EU and about May's
comments on the impact of loose monetary policy, which some saw
as a thinly veiled attack on the Bank of England.
That left the pound in a precarious position and exposed to
"It seems like algorithm trading was behind all this in thin
liquidity conditions," said a trader for a North American bank,
referring to Friday's sudden plunge in the sterling.
"There were no reasons for sterling to make such big
moves.... It was a crazy few minutes."
A trader for a Japanese bank said the selloff was probably
partly caused by the breach of option barriers, and triggering
of stop-loss orders in thin market conditions.
Sterling has been wallowing at its lowest levels since the
mid-1980s this week, on track for a weekly loss of 4.2 percent,
as investors feared the impact of Brexit.
Given the uncertainty around the political and economic
fallout of Brexit, sterling is likely to head lower again,
"It does look like it could be a hard Brexit. There's
implications there for the City, for manufacturing etc, the way
to mollify that, to offset it would be to have a much lower
pound," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for FX broker
OANDA in Singapore.
"So sterling is going to have to go a lot lower."
(Additional reporting by Cecile Lefort in Sydney and Hideyuki
Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Lincoln Feast & Shri Navaratnam)