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Daily Briefing: More questions than answers after St Petersburg blast
April 4, 2017 / 7:30 AM / 8 months ago

Daily Briefing: More questions than answers after St Petersburg blast

LONDON (Reuters) - There are still more questions than answers about yesterday's metro explosion in St Petersburg.

Russian president Vladimir Putin puts flowers down outside Tekhnologicheskiy Institut metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Grigory Duko

Analysis of the body remains on the site point to a suicide bomber, authorities suggest, but there has been no claim of responsibility and no lead made public that would link to radical Islamists - either from the North Caucasus or Islamic State. For now, Interfax is citing Kyrgyzstan's security service as saying a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen is a suspect.

It’s also puzzling that the attack was carried out in mid-afternoon rather than at rush hour when the train would have been packed; and why did the blast not carry to the next carriage, where a witness account suggests no one at all was hurt. Investigators are expected to offer more clarity during the day, with a new Kremlin statement also possible.

International donors meeting in Brussels are due to pledge billions more dollars for Syrian refugees at a two-day conference. With millions displaced within Syria and in neighbouring countries, the United Nations has appealed for $8 billion this year to deal with one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, looking to Gulf states as well as traditional European donors.

With 19 days to go to the first round, tonight sees the second major televised debate among France's presidential candidates. The independent Emmanuel Macron was judged in a snap poll to have been the most convincing in the first of the three encounters held on March 20 - that was enough to ease market fears of a Marine Le Pen victory and push the euro higher.


April started with a judder for world markets on Monday, with a sudden focus on a whole host of geopolitical tensions combining with what looks like a more cautious asset allocation stance going into the second quarter.

A woman lays flowers during a memorial service for victims of a blast in St.Petersburg metro, at a memorial by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, Russia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

What appeared to be a dash for 'safe' assets saw steep drops in U.S. Treasury and German bund yields, a pullback in U.S. stocks and gains for Japan's yen.

No one trigger was cited, but bellicose language from U.S. President Trump about North Korea ahead of his summit this week with China’s President Xi combined with a deadly bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro and even tensions between Britain and Spain over the future status of Gibraltar.

With trade tensions too coming to the fore around the Trump/Xi meeting, there’s also some concern about a cooling of economic activity as U.S. auto sales data disappointed and economic surprise indices are ebbing gradually.

General view of emergency services attending the scene outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages in St. Petersburg, Russia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Wall Street stocks recouped a good portion of the deep intraday losses by the close but still ended in the red, with the ViX volatility index spiking briefly too. Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields have held just above 2.32 percent this morning after a drop of some 7 basis points on Monday.

The dollar index has steadied, but Japan’s yen has continued to rise and dollar/yen fell further overnight to 110.40/$. With China’s markets closed, yen strength meant the Nikkei225 was the underperformer with losses of about 1 percent - hit further by a  9 percent drop in Toshiba as it sought loan support from creditor banks.

European stocks are expected to lower in slipstream, meantime, although periphery debt yields have eased back and Italian 10-year debt yields are down 4 bp after European Union indications that a solution on a bailout of two Italian banks may be at hand.

French markets will eye the latest presidential election TV debate later, with all 11 candidates taking part.

South Africa’s rand continues to fall after S&P’s move on Monday to downgrade the country’s sovereign rating to junk. The rand is now down more than 10 percent since last Monday.

Editing by Tom Heneghan

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