By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) - The pound was little changed overall on Tuesday, hitting two-week highs due to U.S. dollar weakness following the Jackson Hole conference before retreating as the dollar recovered during the session.
At the conference on Friday, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell offered no indication about when the central bank planned to cut its asset purchases beyond saying it could be "this year". The comments knocked the dollar and pushed up the pound - moves that continued on Tuesday, with the pound hitting a two-week high of $1.3807 at 1448 GMT.
But as the dollar recovered, the pound gave up its gains. At 1538 GMT, it was flat on the day at $1.3755. Against the euro, it was also flat at 85.77 pence.
Risk appetite was steady, as European stocks shrugged off fresh signs of an economic slowdown in China. Analysts said that trade in currency markets was being influenced by month-end portfolio rebalancing. [nL1N2Q21F1]
Investors are looking to U.S. jobs figures this week for clues on when the Fed might taper its bond buying.
ING FX strategists wrote to clients that a light data calendar in Britain and a lack of Bank of England speakers meant that the pound had followed the euro's rise against the dollar this week.
"A break above 1.3800 this week should, if anything, be driven solely by USD weakness, while EUR/GBP looks likely to keep trading within its recent narrow range for now," ING said.
Earlier this year, the speed of Britain's COVID-19 vaccination programme and a broader reflation trade in global markets made the pound the best performer among its G10 currency peers, but it has since lost that lead.
Speculators' net position on the pound against the dollar fell further into negative territory - meaning there are more bets on the pound falling - in the week to Aug. 24, according to weekly CFTC positioning data.
The net short position is at its biggest since November 2020.
Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote http://tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv
"The list of headwinds for GBP is growing," said Nomura analyst Jordan Rochester in a note to clients on Friday, citing rising British COVID-19 infections and "high-frequency growth indications turning lower".
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Edmund Blair and John Stonestreet)