European markets hold ground after new Brexit delay

European markets hold ground after new Brexit delay

London Stock Exchange
A man shelters under an umbrella as he walks past the London Stock Exchange. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File Photo)

LONDON: The pound steadied on Thursday (Apr 11) and European stocks held firm after Britain and its EU partners agreed again to extend Brexit.

European leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May opted to delay Brexit for up to six months, saving the continent from a chaotic no-deal departure on Friday.

"The high drama of a Brussels summit between the 28 EU leaders that ran late into the night failed to cause a commensurate move in the markets," noted XTB analyst David Cheetham.

The deal struck in the early hours of Thursday allows Britain until Oct 31 to ratify the divorce it had initially set for Mar 29, but leaves the door open for Brexit anytime before then.

Traders breathed a sigh of relief but observers noted the reprieve was only brief with the agreement merely kicking the can down the road.

If Britain has not ratified the divorce by May 22, it must hold elections to the European Parliament from May 23 to 26 or crash out of the bloc on June 1 with no deal.

"A second delay really has not surprised the markets," ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker told AFP.

He added: "We are no closer to exiting the European Union - or the panic-inducing no-deal scenario."

"The difference with this extension is that it contains the EU elections, with the UK obliged to take part.

"If the UK has not agreed a compromise and does not hold elections then they are expected to leave with no agreement in place."

May remains under intense pressure from hardline Brexit supporters in her Conservative party not to compromise in talks with the opposition Labour party.

The discussions are moving only slowly and it is not clear that they will reach an accord.

KICKING THE CAN?

Richard Falkenhall, forex strategist at Swedish banking group SEB, expressed doubts over a cross-party agreement.

"The small reactions in the pound and in markets in general are understandable as the outcome of the EU-summit was widely anticipated," Falkenhall told AFP.

"There are no winners on a hard Brexit and the EU is well known for kicking the can (down the road) whenever this is an option."

He added: "Although it is a six-month extension we believe that May will try to reach an agreement with the Labour (party) soon enough to avoid British participation in the elections for the European Parliament, although we doubt she will manage this."

British business on Thursday gave a cautious welcome to the second Brexit extension - but also urged an end to the "chaos" that has plagued the nation's withdrawal from the EU.

Wall Street posted modest gains in the late New York morning, helped by optimism about the economy after the government reported fewer jobless claims than expected, providing another reason for the US central bank to hold fire in interest rate hikes.

"Further reports of progress in US-China negotiations" on trade also underpinned sentiment, analysts at Charles Schwab said.

Earlier, Asian equities mostly fell, with few catalysts to drive buying and investors still on edge over trade frictions between the United States and Europe.

Key figures around 1540 GMT:

Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.3072 from US$1.3091 at 2100 GMT on Wednesday

Euro/pound: UP at 86.18 pence from 86.12 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1263 from US$1.1274

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.51 yen from 111.01 yen

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 per cent 7,417.95 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.3 per cent at 11,935.20 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.7 per cent at 5,485.72 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3 per cent at 3,435.99

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 per cent at 26,169.82

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 per cent at 21,711.38 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.9 per cent at 29,839.45 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.6 per cent at 3,189.96 (close)

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 38 cents at US$71.35 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 79 cents at US$63.82 per barrel

Source: AFP/de

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