European stock markets rose yesterday, while the pound firmed after strong UK jobs data as traders braced for more Brexit chaos and awaited the US Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting.
British Prime Minister Theresa May held crisis talks with her ministers after the speaker of parliament threatened to derail her EU withdrawal plan just 10 days before Brexit day, leaving her strategy in tatters.
The fallout from Brexit was however offset by official data showing that the UK unemployment rate hit a 44-year low at 3.9%, while wages continue to outpace inflation.
“It appears that the labour market is still in remarkably rude health despite the ongoing calamity surrounding Brexit,” noted David Cheetham, chief market analyst at the XTB trading group.
“In terms of market reaction there has been a little pop higher in the pound, but the markets remain far more concerned with the latest on the Brexit front.”
In the eurozone, Frankfurt powered ahead by 1.1% at 11,788.41 after a survey showed confidence among investors in Europe’s largest economy Germany rose in March, as fears of a hard Brexit briefly receded earlier this month and progress in US-China trade talks soothed nerves.
London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.3% to 7,324.00 and Paris’s CAC 40 gained 0.2% to 5,425.90 points yesterday.
The ZEW institute’s monthly confidence index added 9.8 points for a reading of minus 3.6 – still in negative territory, but picking up the pace of recovery from a deep trough the indicator plumbed in October and November.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that she would struggle until the last possible moment to achieve an orderly Brexit, saying the interests of Germany, Britain and the EU were at stake.
Wall Street showed a solid rise in the early afternoon, as the focus turned to the US central bank and its interest rate plans.
The Fed is widely expected to hold fire today on another hike, with observers predicting it will opt for just one increase this year as opposed to the two previously tipped, amid global growth weakness and US-China trade tensions.
Oil prices meanwhile ran into profit-taking, having climbed on the back of Monday’s announcement that major producers led by Saudi Arabia agreed to keep working together to prop up the market, but would decide only in June on whether to extend production cuts.
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