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|18 April, 2019

Sterling staggers near $1.30 despite strong UK retail sales

European Union leaders last week granted Britain an up to six-month delay to Brexit

LONDON- 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.

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.

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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.

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 $1.3003after 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) ((tom.finn@tr.com; +44 2075427508 ; Reuters Messaging: tom.finn.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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