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Stocks, pound rally as tweaked Brexit deal soothes investor worries

Stock MarketsMar 12, 2019 05:50AM ET
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© Reuters. People check their mobile phones as they stand outside the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London

By Andrew Galbraith and Josephine Mason

SHANGHAI/LONDON (Reuters) - Last-minute tweaks to Britain's deal to leave the European Union triggered gains across global stocks and propelled sterling higher on Tuesday, soothing investor worries about a possible no-deal exit that has unnerved financial markets in recent months.

Gains in Asian equities extended to Europe, where the pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.2 percent, after Brussels agreed to additional changes to an updated Brexit deal with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday.

Wall Street futures were also higher in early European trade.

The Dublin stock exchange, a barometer for sentiment around the UK's departure from the bloc, rose 0.9 percent, outperforming its European peers, while the UK's blue chip FTSE 100 dropped 0.1 percent.

With 70 percent of its income coming from abroad, the blue chip index is often pressured by a stronger pound.

Sterling, which had already risen ahead of the talks on changes, rallied on hopes the assurance may be enough to sway rebellious British lawmakers who have threatened to vote down May's plan again on Tuesday.

A reduced likelihood of crashing out of the EU with no Brexit deal helped inject some appetite for riskier assets, potentially eliminating one of the three major concerns of global investors, alongside trade and slowing global growth.

But it was not clear if the changes would be enough to secure parliamentary support when lawmakers vote around 1900 GMT, having voted down May's original deal by a record 230 votes in January.

The pound was up 0.5 percent, buying $1.3218 and taking its gains over two days to 2.6 percent.

"This additional agreement to the existing contract does slightly increase the probability that by tonight the deal will go through, but only slightly increases it," said Britt Weidenbach, head of European equities at DWS.

"The market will probably only react to this in a more positive way once we know what the outcome is going to be. This might not be after tonight, it may be after Wednesday when we have a ruling on No-Deal and prolongation.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed up 1 percent, while Chinese blue chips ended up 0.7 percent, extending the previous day's rally.

Despite slowing domestic economic growth and uncertainty about the outlook for trade negotiations between China and the United States, Chinese markets have been buoyed this year by investors' expectations of more stimulus to cushion any downturn.

The CSI300 index has risen more than 28 percent this year.

Japan's Nikkei stock index closed 1.8 percent higher, but Australian shares erased earlier gains to end down 0.1 percent.

Before the latest Brexit developments, risk sentiment was already well supported after global equity indexes climbed overnight on gains in technology stocks and expectations of more stimulus from China.

U.S. shares rebounded from a week-long losing streak, with news that U.S. chip supplier Nvidia Corp has agreed to buy Israeli chip designer Mellanox Technologies Ltd for $6.8 billion helping to boost tech shares.

A nearly 7 percent gain in Nvidia shares helped to propel the Nasdaq Composite 2.02 percent higher.


The turn toward riskier assets lifted yields of higher-rated euro-zone government bonds.

Germany's benchmark 10-year government bond yield rose 2.5 basis points to 0.09 percent -- moving away from more than two-year lows hit last week in the wake of a dovish European Central Bank meeting.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields were at 2.6573 percent compared with a U.S. close of 2.641 percent on Monday.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, shed 0.3 percent. But rising risk appetite weighed on the safe-haven yen, pushing the dollar up 0.2 percent.

The euro was up 0.3 percent on the day.

In commodity markets, oil prices rose on a combination of strong demand and supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

A political and economic crisis in OPEC-member Venezuela is also expected to lift crude prices.

U.S. crude was up 0.4 percent at $57.21 a barrel and Brent crude was 0.5 percent higher at $67.06 per barrel.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent to $1,295.4 per ounce.

(Graphic: EU Brexit assurances boost sterling -

Stocks, pound rally as tweaked Brexit deal soothes investor worries

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