Trade deadline reprieve boost Asia, Europe stocks

Asian markets perked up overnight and European gauges are following suit as the US and China look like they may have moved a step closer to reaching an agreement on trade that could end months of political wrangling.

Asian markets perked up overnight and European gauges are following suit as the US and China look like they may have moved a step closer to reaching an agreement on trade that could end months of political wrangling.

The two sides seem to have made significant progress during last week’s the trade negotiations and although no decisions have been made public yet the fast approaching 1 March deadline to bring in new tariffs on Chinese imports has been kicked to the kerb for an unspecified period of time.

Although the delay doesn’t say anything about what will happen with the tariffs that are already in place, comments from President Trump are being read as a sign that the existing tariffs, or at least the better part of them, could soon be removed. Chinese stock markets perked up with Shanghai Composite Index gaining 5.6% and European markets also improved but at a more of a sedate pace.

Brexit deadline cutting it fine

Amid a wave of party resignations PM Theresa May decided to postpone a Brexit vote scheduled for this week until March 12. She has used this tactic once before, unsuccessfully, and when the vote finally happened her proposal was still opposed by a vast majority. There is nothing to indicate that things will be different this time given the rising dissatisfaction among MPs about where the Brexit negotiations are going. 

The vote, when it eventually takes place, will end up not being about the Brexit proposal but on whether or not there will be a hard Brexit. The currency market is deceptively calm given the underlying political situation and the pound is trading up 0.1% against the greenback, comfortably above the $1.3 level. This is possibly because a number of lawmakers are looking at preventing the no deal outcome including extending the Article 50 deadline. 

Even if this deadline is postponed the unresolved Brexit situation will keep knocking down UK businesses, restraining their ability to function as normal, let alone expand. The evidence of that came from the Confederation of British Industries this morning and a report showing that that business volumes and profitability continued to decline in February and that optimism fell sharply in the services industries, such as accountancy, marketing and legal firms.

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