LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling faltered on Thursday and Europe’s main stock markets went in and out of the red as hopes for a smooth Brexit ran into familiar Irish border snags.
Asia earlier saw a five-day stocks rally grind to a halt as Wednesday’s disappointing U.S. retail sales data on spread gloom, including to the dollar, though even there traders were watching Brexit.
Ongoing Brexit talks passed various deadlines, but the main development was Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party saying that it could not support proposed solutions to Irish border checks. DUP support is considered crucial for any deal.
Sterling, which had shot to five-month highs, fell as much as 0.6% against the dollar to $1.2748 GBP=D3 and 0.5% against the euro to as low as 86.81 pence EURGBP=D3, before steadying and regaining some ground.
Everything else was frozen. The pan-European STOXX 600 barely budged, and in bond markets UK Gilts GB10YT=RR, German Bunds DE10YT=RR and most other government debt were treading water after a week of rising yields.
“Brexit’s the only show in town today”,” said Lyn Graham-Taylor, fixed income strategist at Rabobank.
He said he expected Britain to seek an extension to the Oct. 31 departure date. But investors were looking for a reason to sell, he said, and would be studying the tone in which any Brexit delay was sought.
“An extension with a positive tone would see a positive selloff,” he said.
Emerging-market stocks .MSCIEF gained for a sixth day, their longest winning streak since early April. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators were nailing down a Phase 1 trade deal text for their presidents to sign next month.
But U.S. retail sales fell for the first time in seven months, suggesting manufacturing-led weakness was spreading to the broader economy. U.S. consumption has been one of few bright spots in the global economy, so the data fanned worries the Sino-U.S. trade war would ultimately tip the world into recession.
“While the U.S. suspended a hike in tariffs, it hasn’t gone as far as scrapping the tariffs altogether, so it is hard to expect a quick pick-up in the economy,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
The dollar index =USD was last at 98.075, recovering from its lowest since Aug. 27 touched on Wednesday. Against the yen, it was a flat at 108.72 JPY= after peaking at 108.90. It stood at $1.1071 per euro EUR=, near a one-month low.
In commodities, oil prices slipped after industry data showed a larger-than-expected build-up in U.S. crude stockpiles, adding to concerns that global demand for oil may weaken amid further signs of an economic slowdown.
Brent crude futures fell 0.89% to $58.89 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 1.03% to $52.81.
Turkish markets remained in focus after the country’s military advance in Syria created tensions with United States and Europe and brought about mild sanctions. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later.
Although the U.S. pulled its troops out of the area to allow Turkey’s push, Pence and Pompeo are expected to urge Erdogan to declare a ceasefire, which Erdogan says will “never” happen. U.S. President Donald Trump warned of “devastating” sanctions if discussions did not go well.
Turkish stocks were down 1.8% and the lira weakened to 5.8877 to the dollar TRY=. It has lost nearly 5% this month, making it the world’s worst performer for October.
(GRAPHIC: Turkey’s lira worst performing currency over the last month – here)
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