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Pound slips as trouble mounts for May, US dollar edges up

[TOKYO] The pound slipped early on Monday as troubles mounted for British Prime Minister May, with a report that 40 Conservative MPs are readying a leadership challenge, while Brexit talks face a crucial deadline.

The US dollar received a lift against its major peers as US yields spiked and as the pound stumbled, although the main investor focus was still on a planned US tax overhaul.

Sterling was last down 0.55 per cent at US$1.3118, pulling away from an eight-day peak of US$1.3229 scaled on Friday on better-than-expected data on British industry.

"There were some headlines released over the weekend that were negative for prime minister May, and the market began the week by digesting the reports and then sending the pound lower," said Kyosuke Suzuki, director of forex at Societe Generale in Tokyo.

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The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that 40 members of parliament from British May's Conservative Party have agreed to sign a letter of no-confidence in her.

That is eight short of the number needed to trigger a party leadership contest, the mechanism through which Mrs May could be forced from office and replaced by another Conservative.

Also, Brexit minister David Davis said on Sunday that Britain will not offer a figure or a formula for how much it believes it owes the European Union, highlighting the lack of progress plaguing the divorce negotiations.

Against the yen, the pound was last down 0.5 per cent at 149.09 yen.

The US dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was 0.2 per cent higher at 94.561, following a six basis points rise by long-term US Treasury yields on Friday.

The index had ended the previous week on a loss of 0.6 per cent amid investor disappointment that a proposed US corporate tax cut could be delayed until 2019 instead of being implemented in 2018.

"The sharp rise by Treasury yields certainly is not hurting the dollar. But the yield rise appears mostly technical in nature - the recent flattening trend is being unwound - so the positive impact on the dollar is limited," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

"In my view, the US tax reform talks are proceeding roughly according to schedule. It cannot get much worse, and this is a supportive factor for the dollar."

The greenback was up 0.1 per cent at 113.645 yen. The euro slipped 0.15 per cent to US$1.1647.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar lost 0.15 per cent to US$0.7647 and the New Zealand dollar shed 0.2 per cent to US$0.6921.

REUTERS

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