August 16, 2018 / 7:31 AM / a year ago

Daily Briefing: In Italy, bridge politics heat up

LONDON (Reuters) - In Genoa, the bridge tragedy is being followed by controversy.

Firefighter helicopter flies over the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Atlantia, holding company for operator Autostrade, is defending its record as the government starts proceedings to revoke its concession.

And deputy PM Matteo Salvini has wasted no time in arguing that it all shows why Rome should be free of EU deficit limits to spend more money upgrading its infrastructure.

Financial markets are reading this more widely as the latest rhetorical preamble to a general fiscal loosening.

The added irony is that this is making Italy’s existing borrowing more costly as yields on its 2 trillion euros worth of bonds rise.

The Netherlands has trimmed its economic forecasts by a fractional amount this morning but still sees growth at 2.8 percent this year and 2.5 percent next.

Among the risks to its economy it has cited trade disputes, Brexit and Italy. But with unemployment at a historic low of 3.5 percent and national debt falling as a percentage of GDP, it said the economy continues to “flourish”.

The latest round of Brexit talks start in Brussels today as the crucial October summit originally intended to clinch a final deal nears.

Meanwhile sterling is suffering its longest losing streak since 2008 as concerns grow about a "no deal" exit.

The other factor behind the currency’s weakness are worries about the underlying health of the economy: today’s retail data for July will be closely watched.


Pressure on global equities continues as the emerging markets firestorm dominates, but emerging currencies rebounded somewhat on Thursday as the lira rallied and offshore yuan rallied.

News of the resumption U.S.-China trade talks later this month took the edge off stock market losses and Chinese central bank moves to restrict commercial banks’ offshore yuan activity helped the renminbi bounce.

Turkey’s lira continued to rebound ahead of foreign investor presentation by Turkish finance minister Albayrak later in the day.

The lira has recouped some of its precipitous losses over the past couple of days as the central bank moved to restrict FX swaps markets and Qatar pledged some $15 billion to support Turkey’s banks and financial system. The deepening diplomatic and trade row with Washington showed no sign of easing, however.

The White House overnight condemned Turkey’s retaliatory tariffs against U.S. imports and said Washington would not reverse its decision to double steel tariffs on Turkey even if Ankara now agreed to release evangelical pastor Brunsen from house arrest – a key bone of contention in the row that’s brewed over the past month.

Emerging markets equities - which nudged into ‘bear market’ territory on Wednesday as the MSCI benchmark clocked losses of more than 20 percent from January – remained in the red first thing even if off their worst intraday levels.

The index was down 0.2 percent, negative for the sixth straight session – the longest losing streak in six months.

Aside from fears of trade wars, political tensions, a soaring dollar and a Chinese economic slowdown, concern about leading technology stocks were added to the list this week as Tencent Holdings fell sharply after it reported its first profit drop in 13 years.

Shanghai and HK stocks were down again on Thursday, both falling 0.7 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi and Jakarta’s main benchmark were also in the red.  

U.S. stock futures pointed to a modest rebound after the S&P500 fell 0.7 percent overnight and European stocks were set to push higher.

Bank notes of different currencies, including Euro, U.S. Dollar, Turkish Lira or Brazilian Reais, are photographed in Frankfurt, Germany, in this illustration picture taken May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Illustration

The dollar pulled back slightly from recent highs against the euro and sterling.

Oil and commodity prices steadied after steep losses on Wednesday about fears about world economic growth and the surging dollar.

A look at the day ahead from European Economics and Politics Editor Mark John and EMEA markets editor Mike Dolan. The views expressed are their own.

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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