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Sterling little changed in face of Brexit noise

[LONDON] Sterling inched down against a broadly stronger US dollar on Monday, holding close to the US$1.30 level that has proved an anchor for the past month despite a series of negative headlines from the first weeks of Brexit negotiations.

Banks are divided on the outlook for the pound for the rest of this year, with some forecasting more losses as the economy slows while others argue the worst of the market reaction to Britain's decision to leave the European Union is over.

It dipped 0.15 per cent to US$1.2991 in early trade in London, while holding roughly steady at 90.81 pence per euro.

Signs Britain's pro-European finance minister Philip Hammond was suspending hostilities with "hard" Brexiteers in the cabinet who want a cleaner break from the EU did little to shift prices.

Market voices on:

"At this stage the market does not expect the newsflow around Brexit negotiations to sound very positive," said Sam Lynton-Brown, a strategist with BNP Paribas in London. "But the longer it takes for the market to be able to price in a transitional deal, the more investors will have to prepare for a cliff edge scenario (in 2019)."

Mr Hammond and ardent Brexiteer trade minister Liam Fox set out a joint position in the Sunday Telegraph that a transition period was needed when Britain leaves the EU, but that single market membership would still end and the interim period would not be used to stop Brexit.

The pound reached as high as US$1.3267 per US dollar on Aug 3 on the a brief surge in expectations that the Bank of England could raise interest rates over the next year.

But the Bank's latest meeting and minutes quashed much of that talk in the market and a retreat in pricing on rates has weakened the pound since.

Inflation data on Tuesday and wage numbers a day later should be the centrepiece of this week. If inflation as expected inches up to 2.7 per cent it will underline the pain being felt by households whose income is not rising as fast.

A survey released on Sunday showed British employers expect to raise pay only minimally over the next 12 months despite hiring more staff, suggesting wage growth will remain a problem for consumer spending.

"Our economists see only modest changes in average earnings," said RBC strategist Elsa Lignos. "The puzzle of impressive employment growth without upward pressure on wages will persist."