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Pound weighed down by Brexit fears, equities mostly drop

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FILE PHOTO: Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The pound slumped around one percent against the dollar and euro on Monday as post-Brexit trade talks between Britain and the European Union hung in the balance.

Major stock markets dropped except for London, as the sliding pound helped boost share prices of multinationals trading on the benchmark FTSE 100 index.

Around 1430 GMT, the pound was down by 0.8 percent against the dollar, while the euro jumped by 1.0 percent versus the British currency.

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The FTSE held steady, while oil prices retreated by about 0.8 percent.

Down by around half-a-percent, sterling’s losses widened sharply after Britain’s Sun newspaper said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was willing to abandon post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union.

Johnson is set to have a phone call with EU Chief Ursula von der Leyen at 1600 GMT, an EU spokesman said, with time running out to strike a deal before Britain leaves the EU single market on December 31.

“Sterling is in the firing line because of the nerves surrounding the standoff, and that is the reason why the FTSE 100 is outperforming against its eurozone counterparts,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets UK.

“International stocks like British American Tobacco, AstraZeneca, Unilever, Diageo and Imperial Brands are all helping the index.

“Those companies benefit from the slide in sterling as they earn a large portion of their revenue overseas,” Madden added.

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The threat of a wrenching “no-deal” comes after Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier briefed ambassadors from EU member states at a pre-dawn crisis meeting, warning that divisions were still stark after talks with his UK counterpart David Frost broke up overnight.

Vaccine stimulus
Market focus was also firmly on Covid-19 vaccine developments as the new trading week got underway.

Traders are keeping tabs on the deployment of vaccines around the world, with Britain in line to start giving jabs this week.

US approval of its first drug could come as soon as Friday. Belgium, France and Spain have said jabs will begin in January for the most vulnerable.

There is optimism also that US lawmakers will finally agree on a long-awaited stimulus package.

Senators and their teams worked all weekend on a detailed bill, which “will probably come out early this week”, Republican senator Bill Cassidy told “Fox News Sunday”.

Wall Street opened mixed with the Dow slipping by 0.3 percent however, after the three major indices all posted record highs on Friday.

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– Key figures around 1430 GMT –
London – FTSE 100: UP less than 0.1 percent at 6,552.91 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 13,254.69

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.8 percent at 5,561.77

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,522.66

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 30,141.18

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 percent at 26,547.44 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.2 percent at 26,506.85 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,416.80 (close)

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Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3330 from $1.3423 Friday

Euro/pound: UP at 91.10 pence from 90.21 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2136 from $1.2110

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 104.04 yen from 104.19 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.8 percent at $45.88 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.8 percent at $48.85 per barrel

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