Stock markets climb on trade talks optimism

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NEW YORK, March 16, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Stock markets rose across the globe
on Friday, lifted by the latest encouraging reports from the US-China trade
talks while the pound ended a volatile Brexit-fueled week on a strong note.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported “substantial progress” had
occurred in a call that Beijing’s trade enjoy Liu He held with US Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

That added to a positive tone struck Thursday by US President Donald
Trump.

“Comments coming from the Chinese side were positive. That helped despite
the fact the US president suggested he could walk away from a deal this
week,” Quincy Krosby of Prudential Financial told AFP.

On Wall Street, the major indices closed with gains for the week, as the
S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit their highest levels since early October.

Analysts however pointed out some enthusiasm could have been due to the
quarterly expiry of stock options and index futures.

The main European markets likewise all closed higher and Tokyo’s main
stocks index gained — even though the Bank of Japan issued a more downbeat
assessment of the world’s third-biggest economy, as a broader global slowdown
weighs on exports and production.

– ‘Talk is cheap’ –

“Brexit volatility appears to have calmed,” said Joshua Mahony, senior
market analyst at IG trading group. “Meanwhile, US-China trade talk hopes
have improved.”

On Friday, China approved a foreign investment law that will abolish the
forced transfer of technology from foreign firms to local joint-venture
partners, addressing a central demand by the White House.

On currency markets, the pound climbed against the dollar and euro after a
week that saw wild fluctuations for the British unit, sparked by Brexit
twists and turns.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement was this week
rejected by parliament for a second time.

But the divorce deal could yet return from the dead should hardcore
Brexiteers fear a delay could produce an even softer Brexit than what is
currently on offer.

“There’s still a significant amount of tail risk in being overly exposed
to sterling” because of Brexit uncertainty, said Michael Hewson, chief market
analyst at CMC Markets UK.

“Ultimately talk is cheap, and markets require certainty, something that
still remains in short supply.”

– Key figures around 2100 GMT –

New York – DOW: UP 0.5 percent at 25,848.87 (close)

New York – S&P 500: 0.5 percent at 2,822.48 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: 0.6 percent at 7,688.53 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,228.28 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.9 percent at 11,685.69 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 1.0 percent at 5,405.32 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.3 percent at 3,386.08 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 21,450.85 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.6 percent at 29,012.26 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.0 percent at 3,021.75 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3286 from $1.3238 at 2100 GMT Thursday

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.24 pence from 85.36

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1325 from $1.1304

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.51 yen from 111.65 yen

Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 7 cents to $67.16 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 9 cents to $58.52 per barrel

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