July 23, 2019 / 9:30 AM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Carmakers drive Europe higher, Johnson batters sterling

* Prospect of ECB, Fed easing supports global equities

* Europe climbs as car sector has best day since April 1

* MSCI Asia-Pacific index gains 0.15%, Nikkei adds 0.95%

* Pound sags as hard Brexit advocate Johnson set to become UK PM

* Oil nudges higher as Iran tensions grow

* World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Marc Jones

LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - A wave of central bank easing and positive soundings from the earnings season buoyed world stocks on Tuesday, while Britain’s pound fell before the expected confirmation of hard-Brexit advocate Boris Johnson as the country’s prime minister.

Corporate results from oil bellwether Halliburton, Swiss bank UBS and Apple supplier AMS all helped Europe’s STOXX 600 benchmark add 0.5% to Monday’s gains.

The auto industry also gained as German parts makers Hella and French peer Faurecia surged nearly 6% and tyre maker Continental rose 4% despite a profit warning, putting the sector on track for its best day since April 1.

“The results are coming in and have helped the market today and we are still under the influence of interest rates,” said Francois Savary, the chief investment officer of Prime Partners, referring to expectations of U.S. and ECB rate cuts.

He also said Wall Street earnings had provided no real worries so far and this week’s results from Facebook, Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet would “drive the market up the road.”

Among currencies, the dollar reached a two-week high after U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional leaders agreed on Monday to a two-year extension of the U.S. debt limit, ending the threat a government default later this year.

The New Zealand dollar led G10 losses after its central bank said it had “begun scoping a project to refresh our unconventional monetary policy strategy and implementation,” although it added it was at a very early stage.

Britain’s pound slid towards the mid $1.24 region with eurosceptic Boris Johnson widely expected to replace Prime Minister Theresa May in a matter of hours.

Concern that Britain will crash out of the European Union without a deal have grown since Johnson said he would pull Britain out on Oct. 31 “do or die”.

The pound traded at $1.2459, near last week’s 27-month low of $1.2382.

“Johnson is expected to become the new prime minister, so there is a real chance of a hard Brexit,” said Takuya Kanda, general manager of research at Gaitame.Com Research Institute in Tokyo.

The euro fell 0.2% to $1.1189, weighed down by the likelihood of even more negative ECB interest rates in the coming months. The central bank meets on Thursday.

“It is going to take a bold stroke by the ECB to both satisfy markets clamouring for incremental easing and make a difference to the economy, all the while remaining inside its institutional setting and not destabilising the financial system,” wrote Carl Weinberg, chief international economist at High Frequency Economics.

HOT SPOTS

Europe’s government bonds barely budged, with their yields slumping since the start of the year. Some yields did tick higher after the U.S. move on its debt ceiling.

Germany’s 10-year bond yield, the benchmark for the euro zone, was up a basis point, but at minus 0.34% was near Monday’s two-week low and not far from the record low posted at the start of the month.

Upcoming events to watch include the first of potentially two confidence votes in Spain. Caretaker prime minister Sanchez needs an absolute majority to form a formal coalition with far-left rivals Podemos.

There was also a rumoured meeting between the leaders of the two squabbling parties who make up Italy’s coalition government, 5-Star Movement’s Luigi Di Maio and League’s Matteo Salvini.

“Investors are waiting to see whether this government will survive,” said DZ Bank strategist Daniel Lenz. “One possibility is that the coalition continues but both agree to replace (Giuseppe) Conte as prime minister, which would be a very bad signal.”

Conte is widely seen as a moderating influence on the anti-establishment Italian government, particularly in terms of its relationship with Brussels.

In commodities, Brent crude added 0.19% to reach $63.38 per barrel. It had risen 1.2% the day before on concern over possible supply disruptions after Iran seized a British tanker last week. (Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo, editing by Larry King)

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