Pound down as Brexit uncertainty drags

Pound down as Brexit uncertainty drags

British pound
The pound is suffering from signals of panic among investors that the UK is headed for a no-deal Brexit under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (AFP/PAUL ELLIS)

LONDON: The pound fell on Monday (Mar 18) as more Brexit uncertainty surfaced, culminating in the British parliament's speaker telling the government it could not re-submit an unchanged, twice-rejected Brexit deal to MPs.

Sterling's drop helped push up London's stock market that features numerous multinationals, while eurozone equity indices were a mixed bag at the close and Wall Street softened slightly in New York mid-session business.

"Thanks to the pound's shaky start, the FTSE was able to continue its recent rally", noted Connor Campbell, an analyst at the Spreadex trading group.

The pound rallied last week, illustrating markets' surprising confidence of there being an eventual smooth EU exit for Britain despite political unrest over sealing the country's divorce.

But Monday it slipped as uncertainty about government and parliament action before the Mar 29 deadline made it "the worst performing major currency on the day", David Cheetham at xtb said.

First, British Prime Minister Theresa May's government on Sunday warned that it may not hold a planned Brexit vote this week unless it feels it can secure a win that avoids a lengthy delay to pulling out of the EU.

Then, the pressure on sterling increased in the late European afternoon when the House of Commons speaker said that on procedural grounds, the government cannot submit its Brexit deal for another vote in parliament if it is "the same" or "substantially the same" to the one already rejected by MPs.

The pound's downside was, however, limited as most investors had already priced in a delay of Brexit as the most likely scenario, analysts said.

US-CHINA TRADE OPTIMISM

Elsewhere on Monday, Asian stock markets closed higher as investors tracked Friday's positive lead from Wall Street on optimism over China-US trade talks.

"The signing of a trade deal between the US and China would eliminate one major headwind for global markets and is currently the more probable outcome," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at AxiTrader.

"There is more of an incentive for both superpowers to make a deal because it is economically in their best interests. This is especially the case given the growing US trade deficit due to falling exports to China."

An upcoming Fed meeting will meanwhile be closely followed for clues on the outlook for US interest rates, with some observers suggesting that the central bank would pare its pace of hikes in the face of a slowing global economy.

On the corporate front Monday, share prices in Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank surged after Germany's two biggest lenders on Sunday said they planned formal talks over a possible merger.

The banks, both grappling with painful restructurings after years of falling profits, have long been the subject of merger rumours.

The main oil futures contracts were up after major producers led by Saudi Arabia agreed Monday to keep working together to prop up crude prices, although they said they would decide only in June on whether to extend production cuts.

Key figures around 1640 GMT:

Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.3226 from US$1.3286 at 2100 GMT Friday

Euro/pound: UP at 85.70 pence from 85.21 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1335 from US$1.1325

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.34 yen from 111.51 yen

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.0 per cent at 7,299.19 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 per cent at 11,657.06 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 per cent at 5,412.83 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 per cent at 3,387.94

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.1 per cent at 25,835.57

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 per cent at 21,584.50 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.4 per cent at 29,409.01 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 2.5 per cent at 3,096.42 (close)

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 28 cents at US$67.44 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 48 cents at US$58.98 per barrel

Source: AFP/de

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