Europe battles Brexit blues, Wall Street faces tech stress

LONDON (Reuters) – European stocks slipped again, and sterling and the euro remained volatile on Friday, as one of the most dramatic twists yet in the Brexit process compounded another turbulent week for world markets.

London, Paris and Frankfurt struggled to maintain a modest early bounce [.EU] having been battered the previous day when Britain’s Brexit minister quit in protest over a draft deal with Brussels on leaving the European Union.

Wall Street tech stocks looked set to take a hit, with Nasdaq futures pointing more than 1 percent lower as disappointing results from U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp hit the chip sector globally. [.N]

Sterling faired a little better than on Thursday when it slumped more than 2 cents versus the dollar in what was also its worst day against the euro since the post-Brexit vote fallout of 2016.

But with reports of a UK political coup still rife and a fear that the country could crash out of the EU without a divorce deal, it couldn’t get much beyond 88.50 pence per euro and $1.2875 on cable.

“As long as no deal remains as likely as it is, there is a risk of a sterling depreciation spiral that is self-intensifying,” said Ulrich Leuchtmannan, an FX strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

UK and euro zone government bond yields edged up as some stability returned to fixed-income markets.

Still, 10-year yields on German bonds, considered one of the safest assets in the world, were set for their biggest weekly fall in three weeks, in a sign that Brexit uncertainty and worries about Italy’s finances continued to support demand.

In Frankfurt, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said the bank still plans to dial back its stimulus at the end of the year, but acknowledged the economy had hit a soft patch and inflation may rise more slowly than expected.

“If firms start to become more uncertain about the growth and inflation outlook, the squeeze on margins could prove more persistent,” Draghi told a conference.

Some of Europe’s biggest funds who took part in a Reuters summit this week said they now think Draghi will be the first president in the ECB’s history not to have raised interest rates during their term.


Asian shares had ended their session firmer after reports the United States might pause on further China tariffs, but a near 17 percent plunge in Nvidia’s stock in after-hours Wall Street dealing had tempered the mood.

The chip designer forecast disappointing sales for the holiday quarter, pinning the blame on unsold chips piling up with distributors and retailers after the cryptocurrency mining boom evaporated.

Also falling after hours were shares of Advanced Micro Devices and Intel. Losses in semiconductor shares dragged Japan’s Nikkei down 0.5 percent, while Nasdaq futures were last down 1.3 percent. [.N]

“It started with Apple, then Nvidia … Since performances of these companies set the tone for the global tech and chip industries, related Japanese stocks will likely be sluggish for a while,” said Takatoshi Itoshima, a strategist at Pictet Asset Management.

Europe’s tech stocks suffered too but Brexit remained the region’s main focus. Fears that UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s hard-fought deal could collapse had sent British markets into gyrations not seen since the June 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Britain’s FTSE 100 was at a three-week low, down 0.85 percent, with FTSE 350 bank stocks down 1.4 percent as lender RBS slid a further 4 percent. [.L]

“If and when a vote on the withdrawal agreement occurs is uncertain. Whether the withdrawal bill is passed by both houses of Parliament is uncertain,” Joseph Capurso, a senior currency strategist at CBA, said in a note.

“Whether the Prime Minister resigns or is challenged for the leadership is uncertain. And, whether there is a second referendum and/or an election is uncertain.”

Away from sterling, the dollar dipped on its way to a fifth straight weekly gain, as cautious comments from the Federal Reserve’s newly appointed vice chair about growth saw the euro strengthen to $1.1390.

Also under water was the cryptocurrency Bitcoin which hit a one-year trough overnight, having tumbled 10 percent early in the week when support at $6,000 gave way. It was last changing hands at $5,547 on the Bitstamp platform.

In commodity markets, the weaker dollar gave gold a leg up to $1,223.

oil prices rose too, helped by a decline in U.S. fuel stockpiles and the possibility of a cut in OPEC output.

U.S. crude was trading up 80 cents at $57.27 and Brent crude rose roughly 1 dollar to $67.65 a barrel. It was still set for a sixth straight weekly loss, however.

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