July 11, 2017 / 1:03 PM / in a month

BlackRock takes options to calm Brexit nerves despite pound positivity

FILE PHOTO - The BlackRock logo is seen at the BlackRock Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, October 20, 2016.Toru Hanai

LONDON (Reuters) - BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, is taking some exposure to the pound through options markets for fear of what months of messy Brexit talks may bring, although it maintains the currency is fairly valued.

Scott Thiel, BlackRock's Deputy Chief Investment Officer for global fundamental fixed income, said the money manager was buying option "calls", which entitle it to buy at around current levels rather than through spot purchases.

"We remain constructive on sterling around current levels as we believe it is fairly valued, though given the headline risks around Brexit negotiations, our positioning is through buying call options," Thiel told Reuters on Tuesday.

He declined to specify at what rates BlackRock was buying the options, beyond saying it was at "around current levels".

Very low global market volatility has also made buying options on the pound far cheaper than they were last year, when sharp price swings were the norm. GBP1MO=

The pound fell by as much as 20 percent in the aftermath of last year's shock vote to leave the European Union, trading as low as $1.15, but it has steadied in recent months and was trading at around $1.2906 on Tuesday.

However, there are still considerable nerves around the currency with surveys showing that major companies have curbed investment plans and consumers spent less on credit cards in anticipation of a rough economic period ahead.

A threat by the Bank of England to raise interest rates is also broadly seen as reflecting concerns over the pound's value.

RBC strategists recommended a "short" sterling trade against the U.S. dollar this week, targeting $1.2635, while the latest Commodity Futures Trading Commission data for the week ending July 3 point to still sizeable short bets against the pound.

Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; editing by Alexander Smith

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