LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Investors pulled $27 billion out of UK financial assets last month - the biggest capital outflow since the Lehman crisis in 2008 - as concern mounted about the economic and financial consequences if Scotland left the UK, a report showed on Friday.
People in Scotland will vote in a referendum on independence on Sept 18, and the decision is on a knife edge after the pro-independence campaign overcame a 20-point deficit in the polls since the start of August. The most recent ICM/Gaurdian poll released on Friday put the gap at just 51 percent intending to vote “No” to 49 percent in favour of “Yes”.
Data compiled by London-based consultancy CrossBorder Capital said financial outflows from the UK totaled $27 billion in August, compared with inflows of $8.9 billion the same month last year.
That’s the biggest monthly outflow since the white heat of the financial crisis in 2008, when giant U.S. bank Lehman Brothers went bust. It exceeded the selling of UK assets seen around the 2010 general election, when an inconclusive result led to several days of uncertainty.
“Sterling outflows have been an issue since the end of June, but they really gathered pace in August and now look like intensifying again with the possibility of Scottish independence coming to the front of investors’ minds,”, said Michael Howell, the managing director of CrossBorder Capital, which compiles the index.
The UK outflow was more than double the combined outflow from Germany and Australia. France, the United States, Canada and Japan all attracted net inflows.
Also on Friday, Morgan Stanley said daily equity flow data pointed to “some of the largest UK equity selling on record, demonstrating investor concerns ahead of the Scottish referendum next week.”
Concern over the financial, economic and political effects if the UK breaks up has also weighed on sterling, triggering a surge in exchange rate volatility to its highest since the 2010 general election. In addition, selling pressure has mounted as speculation grew that the Bank of England would soon raise interest rates.
Volatility also swept through global markets this summer, a result of the deepening Russia-Ukraine crisis. According to CrossBorder Capital data, some $26 billion flowed out of UK financial assets in July.
CrossBorder Capital analyses published data on equity, bond and banking flows from a range of sources, including the Bank for International Settlements, exchange traded funds and national current account records. Foreign direct investment flows are excluded.
It uses the data to compile its “Global Liquidity Index”. The UK component of this index fell to 28.6 in August from 33.8 a month earlier and an annual high of 62.3 in February. A reading above 50 denotes expansion, a reading below 50 a contraction.
“The sterling index has effectively collapsed and the UK is second only to Japan in terms of financial market outflows,” Howell said.
So far this year, there has been a net $206 billion outflow from the UK. Last year, there was a net annual inflow of $63 billion, Howell said. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Larry King)