Pound surges as post-Brexit transition deal sealed between UK, EU

The pound rose on March 19, 2018 after Britain and the EU reached a landmark deal on a two-year transition after Brexit that will buy businesses and citizens time to adjust to life after the divorce. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Pound surges as post-Brexit transition deal sealed between UK, EU

LONDON: The pound rose Monday after Britain and the EU reached a landmark deal on a two-year transition after Brexit that will buy businesses and citizens time to adjust to life after the divorce.
World stock markets jittered, meanwhile, in a Facebook-led tech sell-off and ahead of a feared US interest rate hike later this week, as concerns of a possible trade war sparked by US President Donald Trump’s announcement on tariffs also weighed.
“The British pound was the biggest currency mover of the day,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group. “Having the extra two years of continuity should reduce business uncertainty and encourage investment.”
But the “unfed elephant in the room,” the unresolved Irish border question, kept a lid on sterling’s gains, he added.
Rocking the US equity market were Facebook’s shares plummeting more than seven percent following reports of a large data breach.
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova called “horrifying” reports that Cambridge Analytica, the data analysis firm hired by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, stole information from 50 million Facebook user profiles to help design software to predict and influence voters’ choices.
“US stocks are solidly lower to begin the week as technology stocks are suffering on news of data misuse surrounding Facebook,” said analysts at Charles Schwab.
But the social media giant’s downturn was just one factor in a cocktail of reasons for selling stocks.
“Concerns over the potential for a Trump trade war still seem to be weighing on the minds of investors, with a lack of risk appetite still leading to caution in global stock markets,” FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga said.
Trump’s taxes on imports worldwide are to come into effect on March 23, with the exception so far of Canada and Mexico, which have won exemptions from the US.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem is heading to Washington to seek a similar exemption after the bloc threatened to hit flagship US products including peanut butter, orange juice and bourbon whiskey with counter measures.
The pound found strength in a deal reached Monday between Britain and the EU on a transition period between March 29, 2019 and December 31, 2020.
Crucially, the transition will give Britain and Europe more time to agree on a trade deal.
Weighed down by the stronger currency, the London FTSE 100 benchmark underperformed its European peers as a strong pound stands to hurt exporters.
Stock markets elsewhere dropped because of trade war fears, and the tariffs are set to overshadow the two-day meeting of the world’s richest 20 nations in Buenos Aires, beginning later on Monday.
“It’s been a rocky start to trading at the start of the week as the prospect of a trade war becomes ever more real,” said OANDA analyst Craig Erlam.
“Tariffs are likely to be the main topic of conversation at the G20 meeting.”
Sentiment was cautious before interest rate decisions this week from both the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
The Fed gathering will be the first under the stewardship of new boss Jerome Powell.
“The stress of what’s to come — especially Wednesday’s potentially rate-hiking Fed meeting — combined with a lack of distraction and the ongoing political instability in the US contributed to a pretty damn duff start to the week for the European indices,” added Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
The US central bank is expected to raise interest rates again but Powell’s remarks will be closely followed for clues about future increases, with some predicting another three this year in light of an improving economy.


US trade negotiators to visit China for fresh round of talks

Updated 21 March 2019
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US trade negotiators to visit China for fresh round of talks

  • Washington and Beijing are battling over the final shape of a trade deal
  • American officials are demanding profound changes to Chinese industrial policy

BEIJING: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will visit China on March 28-29 for a fresh round of talks aimed at resolving the bruising trade war, the Chinese commerce ministry said Thursday.
After their visit, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will head to the United States in April to continue the negotiations, ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a press briefing.
Washington and Beijing are battling over the final shape of a trade deal, with American officials demanding profound changes to Chinese industrial policy.
President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that US tariffs on Chinese imports could remain in place for a “substantial period,” dampening hopes that an agreement would see them lifted soon.
Over the last eight months, the United States and China have slapped tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way goods trade, weighing on the manufacturing sectors in both countries.
On Friday, China’s rubber-stamp parliament approved a foreign investment law to strengthen protections for intellectual property — a central US grievance — but critics said the bill was rammed through without sufficient time for input from businesses.