Global Stocks Rise as Pound Gyrates on Trump Brexit Comments

A man holds an anti-Brexit banner on Westminster Bridge, in central London, Britain, July 13, 2018. Photo: Reuters

US and European stocks rose modestly on Friday with investors mildly hopeful that China and the US can still settle their war over tariffs.

On currency markets, the pound slumped after US President Donald Trump attacked UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy but recovered after he seemed to backtrack later in the day.

Equities have had a rollercoaster week, with strong US jobs figures providing support before Trump threatened tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese imports, causing a large sell-off.

The markets have also been buoyed by optimism over second-quarter earnings.

Still, analysts are cautious about the odds that the global economy will skirt a value-destroying trade war, with Barclays warning Friday that “the market’s benign narrative of this having limited economic consequence could become challenged as trade cost effects cascade through global value chains.”

Can they work it out

Beijing’s measured response to Trump’s midweek tariffs threat and indications from both sides that they are willing to talk has instilled trading floors with a little optimism heading into the weekend.

“The Chinese government, after initially reacting angrily, appears to be calmly considering its options. The absence of an immediate tit-for-tat response lends hope to the belief that China-US trade negotiations aren’t completely off the table,” said a note from S&P Global Ratings on Friday.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday told lawmakers the White House was “available” for discussions with China.

That came after China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said the economic superpowers “should sit down and try to find a solution to this trade problem.”

But in a development on Friday that could unsettle hopes of progress, data showed that China’s trade surplus with the United States hit a record last month.

The imbalance is at the heart of Trump’s anger at what he describes as Beijing’s unfair trade practices that are hurting American companies and destroying jobs.

Dumped and trumped

On currency markets Friday, sterling was hammered early in the session by fresh concerns about May’s political future.

In an interview released Friday to coincide with Trump’s visit to Britain, the president said the British prime minister’s plans for close future ties with the EU would “probably kill” her hopes for a trade deal with the United States.

Lukman Otunuga, Research Analyst at FXTM, said the pound had been “dumped and trumped” at the end of what was already “a terrible trading week for the British pound thanks to political instability at home and Brexit-related uncertainty.”

Trump later seemed to want to take the edge off his earlier remarks, saying “whatever you do is okay with us, just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters.”

That helped sterling to recover to trade little changed on the day and in turn weighed on London stocks, which are often boosted by a soft British currency.