Sterling falls after disappointing UK retail sales

Sterling falls after disappointing UK retail sales
(Adds context, quotes)

By Tom Finn

LONDON, April 19 (Reuters) - Sterling on Thursday fell after disappointing UK retail sales data added to concerns about how many interest rate hikes the Bank of England will pursue this year.

The pound, among the best-performing G10 currencies this year, rose to a fresh post-Brexit vote high this week but is now down for the week after data showing slowing inflation and the retail sales numbers encouraged investors to cut their sterling bets.

On Thursday, the pound fell 0.3 percent to $1.4161 after British retail sales recorded their biggest quarterly fall in a year during the three months to March when unusually cold weather kept shoppers at home.

Against the euro, the pound fell 0.1 percent to 87.155 pence.

Sterling on Wednesday posted its biggest loss in 6 weeks against the dollar after UK inflation unexpectedly cooled to a one-year low.

Most economists still expect the BoE to raise its key interest rate to 0.75 percent in May to help curb inflation.

But softer-than-expected construction and employment data this month have cast into doubt the viability of a second hike later in 2018.

"The May meeting could in fact be a 'dovish hike' whereby BoE would raise interest rates but temper market expectations," Hamish Muress, currency analyst at OFX, said in a note.

"Sterling bulls will have to wait until February 2019 for another hike."

The British currency has had a strong run against the dollar in part because fears over Brexit have faded since the UK last month secured a transition agreement for an exit from the EU.

On Wednesday the U.K.'s House of Lords voted against a key part of Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit policy, inflicting a defeat on the government that could eventually push it toward keeping closer ties with the European Union. (Reporting by Tom Finn Editing by Tommy Wilkes and Jon Boyle)

2018-04-19 11:46:18

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