PageTitleWorld stocks hit record high, as sterling endures a torrid week - GulfToday

World stocks hit record high, as sterling endures a torrid week


Pro-Brexit demonstrators celebrate outside Parliament in London on Friday. Associated Press

World stocks touched record highs on Friday, as trading wound down before the year-end holidays, while the British pound was heading towards its worst week for more than two years amid renewed worries over how Britain will leave the European Union.

MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, gained a smidgeon to 561.31, bettering a record touched on Thursday as optimism infused markets after the United States and China agreed an initial trade deal.

The MSCI index is on track to advance more than 1% this week, in what would be its fourth straight week of gains.

European shares led the way, with the broad Euro STOXX 600 gaining 0.3% in early trading. Indexes in Frankfurt, Paris and London all made similar gains.

However Shell shares fell 0.6% after it said it expects impairment charges of up to $2.3 billion in the fourth quarter and trimmed its forecast for quarterly oil production sales.

On Wall Street, e-mini futures for the S&P 500 slipped a touch but were near all-time highs, having risen more than 1% in the week.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were steady after rising 1.2% so far this week and almost 5% this month.

Underscoring that the trade war issue has been put to bed for now, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States and China would sign their Phase One trade pact in early January.

Mnuchin said the documentation was completely finished and just undergoing a technical “scrub”, though Beijing has so far dodged all details of the deal.

The US House of Representatives also overwhelmingly approved a new North American deal that leaves $1.2 trillion in annual U.S.-Mexico-Canada tradeflows largely intact.

Market players were already beginning to look at what the next steps for the Washington-Beijing saga will be in the new year.

“The focus will be on what the outlook is on a more comprehensive phase two deal - what the language is like, what Trump and the Chinese are saying about it,” said Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at

Wall Street investors had on Thursday pushed the S&P 500 to a sixth straight record, its longest such streak since January 2018. All three major US indexes - S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow - notched record closing highs.

Still, some data reminded investors of the fragile state of the world economy.

The mood among German consumers deteriorated unexpectedly heading into January, a survey showed, suggesting that household spending in Europe’s largest economy could weaken at the beginning of next year. On the currency front, sterling steadied after suffering a harsh reversal that left it facing its worst weekly fall since late 2017 at 2.4%.

The pound was up 0.2% at $1.3025 having slipped overnight to below $1.30, a dramatic drop from a $1.3514 peak when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his sweeping election victory to revive the risk of a hard Brexit.

“We see the biggest risks being to GBP/USD depreciation over the next two weeks as Brexit preparations take place amidst the most sluggish UK economy in 10 years,” said Richard Grace, chief currency strategist at CBA.

The British parliament will vote at around 1430 GMT on Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Gold edged lower in range-bound trade on Friday, pressured by increased risk appetite on hopes of an interim Sino-U.S. deal being signed soon, while investors awaited US GDP data for fresh cues on the state of economy. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday the United States and China would sign their so-called Phase one trade pact at the beginning of January, adding that it would not be subject to any renegotiation. Spot gold fell 0.1% to $1,477.95 per ounce by 0808 GMT. US gold futures were down 0.2% to $1,481.90 per ounce.

“The real driver for gold markets has been trade-war risk and with its de-escalation in phase one on the back of Mnuchin’s comments is not bullish for gold,” said Stephen Innes, a market strategist at AxiTrader. China’s finance ministry unveiled a new list of import tariff exemptions for a duration of one year starting Dec. 26 for six chemical and oil products from the United States. The easing of the trade dispute boosted share markets, with Asian stocks holding close to 18-month peaks. The dollar was steady, even as it was set to gain for the first week in four, supported by better-than-expected US economic data.

The initial US jobless claims report was strong with applications for unemployment benefits slipping from a more than two-year high. Investors now await US gross domestic product data due out later on Friday.

“Gold is consolidating at the top of its recent range with the dollar a bit stronger and a positive risk environment,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA. “Doesn’t look like anyone wants to take the market higher, the market seems really well-balanced at these levels for now.”


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