Catalan Vote Dents Euro, Upbeat U.S. Data Lifts Stocks

TOKYO (Reuters) —
Passersby are reflected in an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. (Reuters/Issei Kato)

The euro dipped on Friday after Catalan separatists wanting to break away from Spain won a regional election, while Asian stocks edged up on new data pointing to steady growth in the U.S. economy.

Spreadbetters expected Britain’s FTSE to open down 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX to start 0.15 percent lower and France’s CAC to open 0.2 percent lower.

The euro momentarily dipped to $1.1817 early in the day as preliminary results from regional votes on Thursday showed pro-independence parties in Catalonia keeping an absolute majority. It trimmed losses to last stand at $1.1849, down 0.2 percent.

“Some speculators appeared to have sold the euro in thin trading,” said Yukio Ishizuki, senior currency strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo.

“The overall impact of the Catalan vote on the euro and the wider global markets is likely to be limited, however. Catalonia cannot become a sovereign state if no other country recognizes its independence. It won’t even be able to have its own currency under such conditions.”

With nearly all votes counted, separatist parties won a slim majority in Catalan parliament, a result that promises to prolong political tensions in Spain.

“The bid for independence looks set to continue with the two main separatist parties gaining more seats after the vote,” wrote Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.

“But the one-sided declaration of independence in October ended in failure and this will likely result in a strategic change.”

Bitcoin momentarily fell 14.7 percent to below $14,000 on the Bitstamp exchange on Friday. The volatile digital currency trimmed its losses to last stand at $14,100 for a loss of 9.3 percent. The cryptocurrency, which was at about $1,000 at the year’s start, had climbed to a record high of $19,666 on Sunday.

The Asia-Pacific region’s equities took cues from Wall Street, after all three of its indexes posted gains overnight on strength in bank and energy stocks and news the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at its fastest pace in more than two years.

Supporting U.S. stocks this week, and by extension global equities, was the passage through Congress of a $1.5 trillion tax-cutting bill.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.5- percent higher.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.3 percent and Shanghai dipped 0.1 percent.

Australian stocks advanced 0.15 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI gained 0.45 percent and Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.15 percent.

The dollar was steady at 113.370 yen, with its index against a basket of six major currencies 0.1-percent higher at 93.392.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.482 percent, having pulled back slightly from a nine-month peak above 2.500 percent scaled the previous day.

Treasury yields rose earlier this week after Congress approved a U.S. tax code overhaul that was expected to lift economic growth but add at least $1 trillion to the national debt in 10 years.

In commodities, U.S. crude futures slipped 0.3 percent to $58.20 per barrel, an earlier rise losing steam as traders sold to adjust positions ahead of the year-end.

The contracts had reached a nine-day peak of $58.38 overnight as OPEC started working on plans for an exit strategy from its deal to cut crude supplies, fuelling hopes it would not end supply cuts abruptly.

Brent was down 0.15 percent at $64.81 a barrel after closing Thursday at $64.90 a barrel, its highest since June 2015.

The broader rise in commodities this week – copper on the London Metal Exchange reached a two-month high on Thursday – lifted the Australian dollar to $0.7718, its highest since Nov. 2.

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