Pound steadies, dealers take a breather as Johnson prepares Brexit bill battle - GulfToday

Pound steadies, dealers take a breather as Johnson prepares Brexit bill battle


Boris Johnson. File

Sterling steadied around $1.29 on Friday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week and on the eve of a vital vote on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

The stage was set for the House of Commons, which is to meet for the first time on a Saturday in 37 years for a knife-edge vote.

The spotlight in Europe then turns towards Sunday evening, when markets in Asia will deliver their initial verdict on the outcome − and the potential for a chaotic Brexit on October 31.

Johnson has vowed Britain will exit the bloc that day come what may.

IMF head Kristalina Georgieva urged caution while welcoming signs that Britain can reach a deal to exit the European Union.

“When there is a will, there is a deal... and my hope is that the will holds in all quarters,” Georgieva told reporters at the start of the International Monetary Fund annual meeting.

“The market (is) really gambling on tomorrow’s vote and has not priced in fully all scenarios − so expect big moves,” warned ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker.

“On Sunday night, the markets will start opening from the Far East... and it could be a hugely volatile open, regardless of the outcome,” he warned.

Dave Ramsden, the Bank of England’s policymaker overseeing markets and banking, told Bloomberg that its foreign exchange desk would be manned overnight Sunday/Monday to ensure smooth trading.

In rollercoaster deals, the pound had rallied Thursday to almost $1.30 on news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal − a move many commentators warn could be economically catastrophic.

However, sterling then dipped under $1.29 as it became evident that Johnson faced an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and some in his own Conservative party saying they were against it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable” to back him.

Britain voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union but it has delayed its departure date twice so far this year after lawmakers rejected previous Brexit deals.

“Based on everything that has happened over the last three years, it is hard to think that it will pass and then Brexit is on the road to completion,” Baker remarked.

In non-Brexit news, Europe’s car sector hit the skids after French auto giant Renault released a gloomy sales outlook.

Renault shares crashed 12 per cent to 48.38 euros in Paris after warning that 2019 revenues would be three to four per cent lower than last year − and blamed “less favourable than anticipated” conditions.

“Renault shares slumped today after the company lowered its full-year revenue plus profit guidance,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

Wall Street stocks dipped in early trading as solid earnings from Coca-Cola and American Express were offset by a weak Chinese economic report and uncertainty over Brexit.

China reported growth of just 6.0 per cent in the third quarter, its slowest rate in nearly three decades, due in part to a lengthy trade war with the United States.

The Shanghai market closed off 1.3 per cent while Hong Kong dipped 0.5 per cent amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend.

Oil prices were broadly steady on Friday as concern over slower growth in China, the world’s biggest oil importer, was countered by bullish signals from both the Chinese and US refining sectors and a North Sea crude disruption that proved temporary.

Benchmark Brent crude oil futures moved between negative and positive territory, trading down 3 cents to $59.88 a barrel by 1328 GMT.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures edged up by 35 cents to $54.28. The contracts were on track for weekly declines of about 1% and 0.7% respectively.

The Forties oil and gas pipeline system (FPS) in the British North Sea reopened as planned on Friday after being halted for a few hours by a power surge resulting from a lightning strike, operator Ineos said.

The system transports the Forties crude oil stream that makes the biggest contribution to the Brent benchmark.

Sending bearish signals, China’s economic growth slowed to 6% year on year in the third quarter, its weakest for 27-1/2 years and below expectations, dogged by soft factory production and continuing trade tensions with the United States.

China’s September refinery throughput, however, was up 9.4% year on year at 56.49 million tonnes, boosted by new refineries and some independent refiners resuming operations after maintenance.

US and Chinese trade negotiators are working on nailing down a Phase 1 trade deal text for their presidents to sign next month, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday.


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