September 19, 2018 / 9:22 AM / in 3 months

UPDATE 1-Sterling rises above $1.32 on UK inflation data; traders eye EU summit

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv (Adds inflation data, quote, updates prices)

LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - The pound rose to a nine-week high on Wednesday, helped by strong UK inflation data and as investors prepared for a European Union summit where diplomats will try to pave the way for an agreement on Brexit.

Brussels and London have made positive noises in recent days on major obstacles to Brexit, including how to keep an open border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

That has helped sterling rally more than 4 percent from 2018 lows hit in August when fears that Britain would crash out of the EU without a trade deal spooked investors.

On Wednesday the pound rose to $1.3215, its highest since July 17 after British inflation data climbed unexpectedly to a six-month high in August

Versus the euro the British currency firmed to 88.64 pence, its strongest since Aug 2.

Traders have been unwinding short positions on sterling, partly because they see a growing chance of a breakthrough at an informal EU summit in Austria that starts on Wednesday.

But with only six months before Britain leaves the EU and Prime Minister Theresa May yet to secure a trade deal, investors remain concerned about a disorderly exit, which could plunge the economy into a downturn.

A row within the ruling Conservative Party over the sort of deal May is proposing has also capped sterling’s gains.

“Can May save the pound? This summit is considered a turning point for Brexit. If sentiment sours making a “no deal” scenario more likely, then we could see the pound tumble,” said City Index analyst Kathleen Brooks.

Wednesday’s figures showed consumer price inflation rose at an annual rate of 2.7 percent in August, compared with 2.5 percent in July.

The data may surprise Bank of England officials who last month raised interest rates for the second time since the financial crisis. The BoE last week said it expected inflation to cool to 2.4 percent in August.

“While inflation remains stubbornly above the BoE’s target of 2 percent, economic data is taking a back-seat for the foreseeable future as far as driving the pound is concerned with the ongoing Brexit negotiations a far more important factor,” said David Cheetham, a market analyst at XTB. (Reporting by Tom Finn; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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