April 18, 2019 / 8:19 AM / a month ago

Sterling staggers near $1.30 despite strong UK retail sales

LONDON (Reuters) - Sterling fell on Thursday as the dollar’s rally gathered momentum, with strong British retail sales data doing little to shake the currency out of a slumber following a six-month extension to Brexit.

FILE PHOTO: Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Wild swings in the pound subsided last week when European Union leaders granted Britain the Brexit delay to Oct. 31.

The currency is now at its least volatile in years as investors await a breakthrough in Britain’s EU divorce process.

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

British shoppers ignored worries about an impending Brexit deadline and spent heavily in March, official data showed on Thursday, beating all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.

The pound was little moved, though, edging up against the euro and barely shifting versus the dollar.

It later fell versus the U.S. currency after retail sales numbers in the United States beat expectations.

“Such (British) data has been pushed into the backseat over recent months, quiet and insignificant, as markets focus instead on the drama of Brexit,” said Sebastien Clements, currency analyst at OFX.

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

Retail sales volumes in Britain surged by the most in nearly two-and-a-half years in annual terms, leaping by 6.7 percent.

The Bank of England has signalled it will lift interest rates to stop inflationary pressures from building, but it is highly unlikely to act until Brexit is resolved.

At 1305 GMT sterling was down 0.3 percent against the dollar at $1.3003 after earlier dipping to $1.2993, a weekly low.

Against the euro the pound rose 0.2 percent to 86.445 pence. The euro was down across the board after disappointing economic survey data in the region.

While Brexit has taken a back seat in recent trading sessions, it can still move the pound significantly.

On Wednesday, a report in the Guardian newspaper that talks between the Labour opposition party and the ruling Conservatives to resolve a parliamentary deadlock over the terms of Brexit had stalled sent the pound tumbling.

A spokesman for the Labour party denied that the talks had hit an impasse.

Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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