* Sterling off high of 86.08 pence vs euro
* Weaker UK GDP data prompts pullback in pound
* Euro supported on anticipation Greece to accept EU/IMF aid
(Recasts lead, adds quote, detail)
By Neal Armstrong
LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - Sterling retreated from a three-month high against the euro on Friday as UK first quarter GDP data came in weaker than expected and reports Greece was about to accept aid helped the single currency.
Britain’s economy grew at a slower pace than forecast in the first three months of 2010 as the harshest winter in 30 years hit retail and industrial production, a first official estimate showed on Friday [ID:nONS004958]
“The data was short of expectations which had been building up in the past few weeks,” said Kenneth Broux, market economist at Lloyds TSB in London.
“Given it has had a good week versus the euro, there was always a risk of some profit taking.”
At 0940 GMT, the euro was trading up around 0.4 percent versus sterling EURGBP=D4 at 86.75 pence. It had earlier fallen to a three-month low of 86.08 as the single currency came under broad selling pressure on persistent concerns over Greece.
“It’s mainly a weak euro which has been pushing euro/sterling down,” said Jeremy Stretch, currency strategist at Rabobank.
Sterling had also matched Thursday’s two-month trade weighted high =GBP of 79.80.
“The basket is heavily skewed to the euro, so with euro/sterling trading close to 86 pence, sterling is moving higher on a trade-weighted basis.” said Rabobank’s Stretch.
Versus the dollar GBP=D4, sterling was trading down around 0.2 percent at $1.5365.
Anticipation that Greece would today accept EU/IMF aid provided support to the ailing euro, which had been under heavy selling pressure after Eurostat on Thursday revised Greece’s 2009 budget deficit to 13.6 percent of gross domestic product from 12.7 percent.
Analysts suggested the UK GDP data was not overly disappointing, given the tendency for first estimates to be revised up.
“The figures are below consensus but that’s not exactly a new development. Over the last year or 18 months, markets have learned to treat these first estimates with kid gloves,” said Philp Shaw, economist at Investec.
Data on Thursday had showed Britain’s public finances came in slightly better than economists had expected in March, [ID:nONS004951], with investors also cheered by an upward revision to February retail sales [ID:nONS004950].
There was no discernible impact on the currency from a televised debate on Thursday of the three main party leaders ahead of a May 6 general election.
Political uncertainty remained a concern for sterling as opinion polls continued to suggest no one party will emerge as the clear winner in the election.[nUKPOLLS10]
Editing by John Stonestreet