Sterling drops after UK GDP data confirms slowdown

Sterling extended its fall today after data showed that Britain’s economy last year grew at its slowest since 2012, with Brexit uncertainty hitting investment.

The quarterly GDP numbers followed other data in recent weeks that paint a picture of a UK economy slowing into 2019 as businesses and consumers grow increasingly nervous about Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The UK’s gross domestic product growth in the final quarter of 2018 fell to a quarterly rate of 0.2% from 0.6%in the previous quarter.

This was in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll but slightly weaker than the Bank of England estimated last week.

For 2018 as a whole, growth dropped to its lowest since 2012 at 1.4%, down from 1.8% in 2017.

The pound fell 0.3% to as low as $1.2895 after trading at $1.2923 before the data was released.

Against the euro, sterling dropped 0.3% to 87.72 pence from 84.55 pence earlier.

Analysts said that while the monthly data can be volatile, the figures do not bode well heading into 2019 with peak Brexit uncertainty and signs of slowing economies in the euro zone and the US.

Sterling last week suffered its worst weekly decline in a month, with a stalemate over Brexit weighing on the currency and leading the Bank of England to cut its UK growth forecast.

Brexit negotiations continue to hang over sterling and will likely dominate trading in the coming sessions.

Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected the idea of targeting a customs union with the EU and fears are growing that the British leader is playing a game of brinkmanship as she tries to secure backing for her withdrawal agreement ahead of the scheduled Brexit departure date of March 29.

Commerzbank analysts said that without an end to the uncertainty the pound would likely trade lower.

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