Pound hits seven-week high on eve of vital Brexit vote

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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London , United Kingdom (AFP) — The British pound yesterday hit a seven-week high against the dollar as UK Prime Minister Theresa May delivered an upbeat speech on the eve of a key Brexit vote which she is expected to lose, dealers said.

Sterling bounced as high as US$1.2879, a level last seen in late November, after May issued a last-ditch plea for lawmakers to back her European Union divorce deal on Tuesday.

The European single currency dropped to 88.96 pence, the lowest level since early December.

World stock markets meanwhile buckled as investors seized on poor Chinese economic data which stoked renewed fears of a global slowdown.

“We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum,” May said in an address to factory workers in Stoke, a Brexit-backing city in central England.

The embattled British leader, who is widely expected to lose the House of Commons vote by a considerable margin, said failure to deliver Brexit would be “catastrophic” for British democracy.

'Highly sceptical'

“The pound has moved up... and is now not far from the US$1.29 handle,” said XTB analyst David Cheetham.

“However, the markets remain highly sceptical as to whether May can get the required support in the Commons tomorrow evening and a heavy defeat would likely see her deal dead in the water.”

“Recent developments have seen the consensus make a marked shift away from the probability of a no-deal but there remains a nagging doubt that this is being dismissed out of hand all too readily.

“If traders start to fear that it could realistically happen once more then the pound is vulnerable to a swift swoon lower.”

Meanwhile, London's benchmark FTSE 100 stocks index sank 0.9 per cent, while Paris shed 0.4 per cent and Frankfurt gave up 0.3 per cent.

Wall Street stocks also slid lower, with the Dow down 0.6 per cent approaching midday.

In Asia, Hong Kong stocks spearheaded a sell-off as profit-takers also moved in following a six-day rally.

Reigniting slowdown fears

“Disappointing trade data from China overnight served to reignite fears of a global economic slowdown,” said AxiTrader analyst James Hughes.

Data Monday showed China's imports and exports fell last month, signalling that US tariffs are beginning to bite in the world's number two economy.

The customs bureau also said China's trade surplus with the US — a major source of anger for President Donald Trump — widened 17.2 per cent last year, as US companies rushed to buy goods ahead of more tariff hikes.

“Growth concerns that have been kicked up by some weaker than expected trade data out of China,” was dragging markets lower, said market analyst Patrick O'Hare at

“The continued partial government shutdown, and suggestions a solution may not be reached soon, has also been a drag on sentiment,” he added.

The US government shutdown is now in its fourth week and shows no sign of ending soon.

Wall Street fell Friday, ending a healthy week which was boosted by optimism over China-US trade talks and after the US Federal Reserve hinted it could pause its interest rate hikes.

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.9 per cent at 6,855.02 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 per cent at 10,855.91 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 per cent at 4,762.75 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.6 per cent at 3,053.05

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.6 per cent at 23,860.90

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.4 per cent at 26,298.33 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 per cent at 2,535.77 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.03 pence from 89.31 pence at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2868 from $1.2844

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1476 from $1.1469

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.16 yen from 108.48

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 53 cents at $59.95 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 31 cents at $51.2

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