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By Jamie McGeever
LONDON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Sterling rebounded on Friday and was on track for its strongest week against the euro for almost three months, after year-end UK manufacturing and trade data beat expectations and allayed fears of an economic slowdown as the Brexit process gathers pace.
A number of forward-looking indicators of sentiment have dipped in the past 10 days, stirring nerves among investors that a weakening of growth predicted by many economists since the vote to leave the EU last June is finally materialising.
But manufacturing output rose 2.1 percent in December, far higher than the 0.5 percent rise forecast in a Reuters poll. And compared with December 2015, it was up 4.0 percent, the strongest increase since April 2014.
Meanwhile, Britain’s goods trade deficit fell to 10.89 billion pounds in December, narrower than a forecast of 11.5 billion in the Reuters poll.
“So much for the Brexit meltdown,” ETX Capital senior market analyst, Neil Wilson, said. “Today’s data confirm that the UK economy remains very resilient and lends support to the Bank of England’s decision to revise up its 2017 growth outlook.”
By 1040 GMT the pound was up slightly on the day at $1.2505 , and up further from about $1.2480 just before the data was released.
The euro was down 0.1 percent on the day at 85.13 pence . So far this week, sterling is up nearly 1.5 percent against the euro, which would mark its biggest weekly rise since Nov. 7-11.
On a trade-weighted basis, sterling has now risen three of the last four weeks.
The BoE last week said it now expects economic growth of 2.0 percent this year, higher than the forecasts of all but one of 50 economists polled by Reuters last month and up sharply from its previous forecast of 1.4 percent.
Yet it is in no rush to raise rates, and on Wednesday Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe warned that British business investment is likely to remain very weak in the near term after June’s Brexit referendum.
Sterling came under some selling pressure on Friday after Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser agreed to buy U.S. infant formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition for $16.6 billion, potentially fuelling corporate demand to exchange sterling for dollars.
But sentiment remains largely driven by domestic politics and the near-daily twists and turns in the Brexit process.
The head of the European Commission’s office in Britain said on Friday it is unrealistic for Britain to expect to negotiate its exit from the EU and reach a free trade agreement in two years and both will probably need an implementation phase. (Editing by Louise Ireland)