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[LONDON] Sterling traded slightly below US$1.27 on Thursday as investors were divided over the prospect of a rise in interest rates from the Bank of England after two of its top officials gave opposing signals on the matter this week.
BoE Governor Mark Carney said in a speech on Tuesday it was not the right time to raise interest rates, while the Bank's chief economist, Andy Haldane, separately said he expected to vote for a rate rise later this year.
That split came barely a week after three members of the central bank's eight-strong rate-setting committee voted to hike record low interest rates, fuelling differing views among investors over when the Bank would make the first UK interest rate hike in a decade.
Sterling weakened almost 1 per cent after Mr Carney's comments, but was bumped higher after Haldane spoke on Wednesday, recovering to as much as US$1.2704.
It hovered between US$1.2654 and US$1.2688 for most of the day, last trading flat at US$1.2666 by 1440 GMT.
Against the euro, it was 0.1 per cent higher at 88.10 pence.
Jeremy Stretch, currency strategist with CIBC World Markets said sterling's bump higher on Haldane's speech looked overdone. "The market has become a little over-excited about the prospect of monetary tightening in the UK...Haldane's growth assumptions I think are too elevated and accordingly if those are revised lower he will not be too hawkish and sterling support will prove to diminish."
Strategists at Nomura took a different view, saying they expected the BoE to undo its Brexit-induced rate cut at its next meeting on Aug 3. "With the Bank growing increasingly intolerant of above-target inflation, it has begun to feel that weaker data would now be needed to prove the case for keeping policy on hold, rather than stronger data being required to justify higher rates," they wrote in a note.
Potentially adding to arguments for a rate hike from the BoE was a monthly survey which showed British factory orders hit their highest level in nearly 30 years in June. The same survey showed export order growth at its strongest in 22 years, helped by the fall in sterling's value that was triggered by Britain's vote last year to leave the European Union.
Outgoing MPC member Kristin Forbes, long an anti-inflation hawk on the BoE committee, is due to speak at London Business School later in the day.
Investors were also following political developments, with Prime Minister Theresa May presenting to EU leaders her approach to giving guarantees to EU citizens over their rights in Britain.
After a snap election eroded her Conservative Party's majority in parliament, May is still in talks with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to form a minority government.
Finance minister Philip Hammond said he was confident Ms May would strike a deal with the DUP to gain support for her minority government, and DUP lawmaker Jeffrey Donaldson said there was a "very good" chance of a deal by next Thursday.
"Sterling has had its Haldane-inspired lift, and probably has little further upside with the main focus on politics," Kit Juckes, currency strategist with Societe Generale wrote in a note.
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