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Sterling slips against firm US dollar, awaits UK retail sales data

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Sterling eased against a strong US dollar on Thursday, giving up some of its gains from Wednesday, when a poll showed support was growing for Britain to remain a member of the European Union.

[LONDON] Sterling eased against a strong US dollar on Thursday, giving up some of its gains from Wednesday, when a poll showed support was growing for Britain to remain a member of the European Union.

The US dollar was higher against most major currencies after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's April meeting rekindled expectations the Fed would raise US interest rates in June.

Traders will now wait for British retail sales data at 0830 GMT, and a disappointing number could weaken sterling further. Forecasts are that retail sales rose 0.5 per cent in April from a month ago, leaving them 2.5 per cent higher annually.

Sterling was 0.1 per cent lower at US$1.4585, having struck a two-week high of US$1.4634 on Wednesday. The euro was up at 76.90 pence, holding just above a three-month low of 76.83 pence struck on Wednesday.

"A softer retail sales report today may trigger a correction," said Viraj Patel, a currency strategist at ING. Two-year swap rate differentials between the United States and Britain have widened and the pound was likely to ease further, he said.

Sterling had soared on Wednesday after the Ipsos-Mori poll, found 55 per cent of those surveyed supported staying in the EU and just 37 per cent wanted to leave.

Earlier, a YouGov poll showed the "In" camp with a four-point lead .

According to betting website Betfair, the implied probability that Britain would vote to remain an EU member in its referendum on June 23 was around 75 per cent, compared with less than 70 per cent late last week.

Worries about a possible Brexit have weighed on the pound since late last year, driving an 8 per cent decline in the past six months on a trade-weighted basis.

But since hitting a 2 1/2-year low last month, sterling has recovered by almost 4 per cent.

REUTERS