November 23, 2018 / 1:05 AM / 24 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares edge up, but growth woes offset Brexit progress

SHANGHAI, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Asian shares barely budged in early Friday trade as investors were reluctant to make any big bets in the face of trade tensions, signs of slowing earnings and Brexit negotiations.

A draft deal between Britain and the European Union on future relations offered some hope for battered markets, though more evidence of pressure on corporate earnings in Europe kept equity investors sidelined.

With U.S. markets closed overnight for Thanksgiving and Japan on holiday on Friday, trading activity was relatively muted. The MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent in early trade.

Australian shares were up 0.23 percent, and Seoul’s Kospi was flat.

Despite the small gains, U.S. equity futures were pointing to weakness on Wall Street when trading resumes Friday. S&P E-mini futures were down 0.24 percent at 2,642.75.

On Thursday, stock markets in Europe were hit by disappointing earnings on further signs that corporate profit growth is peaking globally.

Those earnings underscored the lingering anxiety among equity investors as trade tensions, slowing global investment and growth kept stock markets on the backfoot after a torrid October.

In the currency market, the pound was flat, buying $1.2878 after rising more than 1 percent on Thursday on news of the draft agreement between Britain and the EU, which describes a close post-Brexit relationship. The agreement follows a draft treaty last week that set the terms for Britain’s departure from the EU in March.

But the deal faces a rocky ride once it reaches a deeply divided British parliament, with hardline eurosceptic and staunch pro-EU factions, and various shades of gray in-between.

Indeed, analysts at National Australia Bank cautioned against early celebrations.

“After EU leaders are expected to rubber stamp this political declaration alongside the withdrawal agreement at a summit on Sunday, the ‘meaningful vote’ in the UK Parliament is likely in the second week in December. It would be far too optimistic to declare victory on a deal yet,” they said in a note to clients.

The euro was a touch weaker at $1.1402, and the dollar was up 0.03 percent against the yen to 112.96.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 3.0646 percent compared with its U.S. close of 3.061 percent ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. The two-year yield , sensitive to market expectations of higher Fed fund rates, was barely changed at 2.816 percent.

In commodities markets, crude oil prices extended their recent slump as U.S. inventories hit their highest level since December, adding to concerns about a global crude glut.

U.S. crude dipped 1.06 percent at $54.05 a barrel.

Spot gold rose 0.07 percent to trade at $1,227.54 per ounce. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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