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Sterling extends slide after BOE governor Carney punctures rate hike bets

[LONDON] Sterling fell another 0.3 per cent to a two-week low on Friday after Bank of England governor Mark Carney signalled that the central bank may not rush to raise interest rates in May because economic data was "mixed".

Investors had this week bid up the pound, one of the best performing major currencies in 2018, to its highest level since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, in part because of growing expectations the BOE would hike rates next month to curb inflation.

But weaker than expected wage growth numbers and inflation data this week encouraged Mr Carney to tell the BBC on Thursday that the rate rise was far from certain and that there were other BOE meetings later in the year.

"Carney has moved the goalposts," said Jane Foley, an FX strategist at Rabobank.

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"The data from the UK has shown signs of weakness. There are signs we could be losing momentum."

Ms Foley said Mr Carney was correct to have cautioned the market but it raised questions about the BOE's forward guidance in February when the central bank had signalled a rate rise was coming soon, and it underlined that investors should see rate moves as contingent on economic data.

The pound fell to a day's low of US$1.4037, its lowest since April 6. On Thursday, sterling slid close to one per cent and the British currency is now down 1.35 per cent for the week.

Against the euro, sterling was flat on Friday at 87.72 pence per euro.

The pound was widely tipped to perform well in April, when a seasonal rise in capital inflows into Britain from foreign companies paying UK shareholders dividends has previously boosted sterling during the month.

Analysts said some speculative money had probably bet on that pattern repeating itself, and investors were now rushing to unwind those positions, pushing the currency lower.

RBC noted that Michael Saunders, a member of the BOE's rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee, was speaking on Friday and could counter some of Mr Carney's caution about raising rates.

"Saunders is one of the most hawkish MPC members, voting for an immediate hike at the last meeting... It is unlikely that recent downside surprises on both CPI inflation and average earnings will have changed his stance," Adam Cole, RBC's chief currencies strategist said.

Markets are pricing in a 45 per cent chance of a 25 basis point hike in May, down from a near 70 per cent chance before Mr Carney spoke.

REUTERS