Slight Bounce Masks Unease Over Brexit, Trade and Growth

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Stocks rose tentatively on Tuesday as investors picked through the rubble of conflagrations in some of the world’s top economies amid heightened uncertainty over Brexit, a China-U.S. trade war and French protests.

Contact between China and the United States boosted European stocks and U.S futures while sterling floundered near 20-month lows as the market sought clarity on the next steps for Brexit after Britain’s prime minister postponed a vote on her deal.

China’s Vice Premier Liu He spoke with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, exchanging views on the next stage of trade talks.

The sign China is moving ahead on talks with the United States helped rekindle investors’ appetite for equities, and trade-sensitive industrials, materials, and consumer stocks drove the rally.

Euro zone stocks rose 1.4 percent and Germany’s DAX climbed 1.6 percent while Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.1 percent.

Futures for Wall Street’s S&P500 and Dow shook off earlier losses, climbing 0.4-0.5 percent as investors hoped for a resolution to the trade conflict.

China’s blue-chip index rose 0.5 percent overnight and MSCI’s world equity index gained 0.3 percent – set for its first day of gains after a five-day losing streak.

Investors grappled with more uncertainty in Britain.

Sterling hesitantly rose 0.4 percent to $1.2610 as traders sought to price in a range of possibilities after Prime Minister Theresa May’s abrupt decision to postpone a parliamentary vote on her Brexit agreement on Monday, a move that sent the pound spiralling down to $1.2505.

Goldman Sachs analysts said volatility across UK assets has increased, with option markets pricing a wider range of outcomes including Brexit without a deal, a last-minute agreement or another referendum on EU membership.

“We still think a no deal is a very low probability, but the uncertainty will persist for some time,” said Richard Turnill, global chief investment strategist at Blackrock.

“The events of the last few days show you why there’s caution,” he added.

May embarked on the first leg of a trip to meet European leaders on Tuesday, seeking support for changes to her Brexit deal, while at home pressure mounted and some lawmakers agitated for a vote of no confidence.

The EU was adamant the withdrawal agreement, including its most contentious element – a “backstop” for the Northern Ireland frontier – could not be renegotiated.

“Without major changes to the backstop, the odds are stacked against May if and when she brings her deal back to parliament,” said Kallum Pickering, an economist at Berenberg.

Bond markets in Europe were focused on France as investors fretted over fiscal spending after the government announced concessions aimed at defusing weeks of often violent protests.

President Emmanuel Macron announced wage rises for the poorest workers and tax cuts for pensioners.

This sent French bond yields to their highest level over Germany’s in 19 months, with the spread over the safe-haven German Bund hitting 47.5 basis points.

Macron’s announcement “leaves open the question about how the new fiscal measures will be covered financially,” wrote UniCredit analysts.

Olivier Dussopt, junior minister for public accounts, said on BFM TV the measures would cost 8-10 billion euros ($9.1-$11.4 billion).

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. dollar against a basket of major currencies, slipped 0.2 percent to 97.078 .

In emerging markets, stocks rose 0.2 percent from one-month lows hit on Monday.

The shock resignation of India’s central bank governor hurt India’s NSE share index initially, but it closed up 0.6 percent, helped by election results in three states which were not as poor for the ruling party as some had expected.

Oil prices rebounded strongly from earlier losses, having sunk on Monday.

U.S. crude futures and Brent futures were both up 0.7 percent to $51.39 and $60.40 respectively.

Growth worries still stalked markets.

Japan’s economy provided the latest negative data point, contracting the most in over four years in the third quarter, compounding worries over a slowing global economy.

Disappointing economic data has fanned worries about corporate earnings and factory output, with the Sino-U.S. trade battle clouding the outlook for world growth.

All sectors in Europe are in the red this year after oil became the last to give up all its 2018 gains, as investors licked their wounds and awaited the end of a bruising year.

(Reporting by Helen Reid Editing by Robin Pomeroy)



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