The pound rose yesterday 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.
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. In London, the FTSE 100 closed down 1.7% at 7,042.93 points; Frankfurt — DAX 30 ended down 1.4% at 12,217.02 points and Paris — CAC 40 fell1.1% at 5,222.84 points yesterday.
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.
“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.
“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 7% 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 50mn 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.
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