Shares and Sterling Soar After Trade and Brexit Boosts

Investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Shares already trading at record highs piled on the gains and the pound soared on Friday as a last-gasp Sino-U.S. trade deal and a thumping election win by Britain’s Conservative Party cleared two of the darkest clouds on the global investment horizon.

The double dose of relief knocked safe-haven sovereign bonds and the Japanese yen, and led markets to scale back the chance of more interest rates cuts around the world.

“Global investors have been given two of the biggest gifts on their [wish] list and should be appreciative for a while at least,” said Sean Callow, a senior forex analyst at Westpac.

“Global equity indices such as MSCI World should set more record highs and sterling could push above $1.36.”

The pound hit its highest since mid-2018 as exit polls and then a run of UK vote results quickly wiped out any chance of a shock win by the left-wing Labour opposition, which had been a worry for investors.

Prime Minster Johnson won a commanding majority in Britain’s Parliament, giving him the power to deliver Brexit, though trade talks with the European Union were set to drag on for months yet.

The pound was up 2.1% at $1.3450 and reached levels against on the euro not visited since mid-2016.

A wave of trade euphoria had already lifted Wall Street to record highs. Reuters reported the United States has agreed to reduce some tariffs on Chinese goods and delay a tranche of tariffs as part of a ‘phase one’ deal.

China had agreed to make $50 billion in agricultural purchases in 2020, that person and another U.S. source familiar with the talks said.

“If the U.S. cuts the current tariffs to some extent as reported, that is not something markets have priced in, so we could see a further leg up,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo.

Europe’s pan-regional STOXX 600 share market looked set to open almost 1.5% higher on the twin boosts. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei climbed 2.5% to a 14-month top, while Shanghai blue chips advanced 2%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan jumped 1.5% to its highest since late April.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.4% to another peak, though London’s FTSE futures were only up a modest 0.2%, perhaps because a Conservative win had already been priced in, but also because a stronger pound makes British firms’ international earnings look less impressive.

On Thursday, Wall Street had celebrated the trade news with record highs. The Dow ended Thursday up 0.79%, while the S&P 500 gained 0.86% and the Nasdaq 0.73%.

That was bad news for bonds, and yields on U.S. 10-year Treasuries shot up to 1.91%, a rise of 12 basis points in just two sessions.

Interest rate futures slipped as investors priced in less chance of a rate cut from the Federal Reserve next year – a shift seen across a range of developed nations including the U.K.

Other safe harbors also took a beating, with the yen sliding across the board. The dollar firmed further to 109.60 yen having risen 0.7% overnight.

The dollar fared less well elsewhere, slipping 0.5% to 96.792 against a basket of currencies, as the pound and the euro both benefited from the U.K. election result.

The dollar hit an 18-week low to the yuan as any trade truce would be seen as a boon for the export-heavy Chinese economy. It was at 6.9607 yuan having shed a steep 1.2% overnight.

Spot gold was flat at $1,467.60 per ounce.

Oil prices rallied on hopes that a trade deal would support global growth and thus demand. U.S. crude added 31 cents to $59.49 a barrel, while Brent crude rose 42 cents to $64.62.

“Risk appetite ran wild after Trump signaled that he made a deal with China and that will only be positive for global demand forecasts for crude,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

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