March 22, 2019 / 9:07 AM / in 4 months

Sterling recovers as Britain's May gets "last chance" for orderly Brexit

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv

LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - Britain’s pound held above $1.31 on Friday after recovering overnight when European Union leaders gave Prime Minister Theresa May a two-week reprieve, until April 12, to decide how to leave the European Union.

Sterling had plunged towards $1.30 on Thursday in its biggest one-day fall of 2019 as fears mounted that Britain would crash out of the EU on March 29.

The EU has said Britain can have a short delay to Brexit, as requested by May, but she must first win parliamentary approval for her withdrawal deal that sets out the future relationship between London and its biggest trading partner.

May, however, has already lost two attempts to secure parliamentary support, and with the odds stacked against her for another vote next week the risk of a no-deal Brexit rose sharply.

The EU’s leaders have described the two-week extension as a “last chance” for Britain to secure an orderly Brexit.

“Last night’s move by the EUCO (European Commission) has lowered the immediacy of hard Brexit risk next week,” Nomura FX strategist Jordan Rochester said. “But no deal can still happen if Theresa May were to wish it, either next week or on 12th April.”

The pound was up 0.1 percent at $1.3117 by 0845 GMT, while its gains versus the euro were as high as 0.7 percent to 86.14 pence - largely on the back of weakness in the single currency following disappointing data out of Germany.

Despite the rise, currency derivative markets signaled a growing caution the outlook for the British currency with one-month risk reversals on the pound versus the euro and the dollar plunging to multi-month highs.

Risk reversals, a gauge of puts to calls, and an indicator of how bearish or bullish are on the outlook of the currency, indicate that short term negative bets on the pound are piling up rapidly despite the broader calm in the spot markets.

One-month risk reversals on the pound versus the euro plunged to their lowest levels since mid-2017. Against the dollar, bearish bets grew to their highest levels since September 2017, according to Refinitiv data.

Referring to Thursday’s sudden drop in the pound, MUFG analyst Lee Hardman said “the market’s complacency has been tested” and that no-deal fears remained elevated. (Reporting by Tommy Wilkes Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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