September 5, 2018 / 8:05 AM / 9 months ago

Daily Briefing: Brexit mood swing?

LONDON (Reuters) - Data released in an academic-led report today shows that 59 percent of UK voters would now vote to remain in the EU, versus 41 percent who would vote to leave.

FILE PHOTO: Remain supporters wave EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London, June 20, 2018

That finding, published by research bodies NatCen and The UK in a Changing Europe, is the highest recorded support for Remain in a series of five such surveys since the 2016 referendum.

The small caveat is that the panel of those surveyed voted 53 percent in favour of Remain in the original vote - five percentage points more than the electorate as a whole. But that would still represent a six-point swing in voting intentions.

One survey does not make a trend but this could be the clearest indication yet that a change of public mood is taking place.

German politician Manfred Weber will today announce that he will stand to be the top candidate for the grouping of national conservative parties in next May's European Parliament elections.

His relative obscurity across Europe means the announcement is hardly likely to set pulses racing, yet it sets the clock ticking on what could emerge as the most important elections to the EU assembly in years.

Quite apart from the fact that the European Parliament has gradually accrued significant powers in its own right, it will also be a battleground this time in the fight between the pro-EU mainstream parties and the emboldened eurosceptic leaders taking them on - from Hungary’s Viktor Orban to Italy’s Matteo Salvini.

Ultimately the shape of the new parliament could help determine the ambitions of the next European Commission on matters from migration to taking on new members.

Such is the complexity surrounding the election process and its outcome that Weber and his rival candidates are by no means assured of emerging as household names at the end of it. But the stakes of this vote are no less high for that.


World stock markets pushed lower on Wednesday amid simmering trade tensions and the spreading financial firestorm across emerging market currencies.

MSCI’s emerging markets equity index dropped for the sixth straight day, losing more than 1 percent in Asia and nearly fully reversing the late August bound in the benchmark.

As Argentina struggled to get ahead of a crisis than has more than halved the value of the peso so far this year, it was already negotiating more support from the International Monetary Fund even before it had drawn down any of a $50 billion programme agreed only in June.

And despite vocal backing for President Macri and his government from both the IMF and U.S. President Trump on Tuesday, the peso continued to weaken.

Unnerving emerging market investors now is the real economic impact of another sudden stop in financial flows and the damage to business and household confidence.

Numbers released by the Institute of International Finance showed foreign money inflows to emerging markets shrank to just $2.2 billion in August from almost $14 billion in July, with net outflows from emerging debt of almost $5 billion during the month.

South Africa said Tuesday its economy returned to recession in the second quarter of this year with the second straight quarter of contraction, even before the worst of the emerging currency shock hit over the summer. The rand fell sharply after the surprise news and extended those losses early on Wednesday close to the two-year lows set in mid-August.

Fitch ratings agency said on Wednesday it expected Turkey’s economy to contract in each of the final three quarters of next year as it struggles with soaring inflation and a lira that’s lost more than 40 percent this year.  Despite signals from the central bank in recent days of possible interest rate rises when it meets next week, the lira continued to push lower on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, India’s rupee skidded further overnight to new record lows and Malaysia’s ringitt fell to its lowest in 9 months.

Jarred by the prospect of Washington going ahead with 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods when a public consultation period ends tomorrow, Shanghai and Hong Kong stocks fell again and gave up Tuesday’s modest bounce.

Shanghai was down 1.5 percent and HK’s Hang Seng was down 2.4 percent. With equity losses from Tokyo to Seoul, Jakarta’s benchmark index underperformed with a drop of more than 4 percent.

The picture was more mixed on Wall St overnight, with the S&P500 and Nasdaq ending slightly in the red despite Amazon joining Apple as the world’s second $1 trillion company by market capitalisation.

In a payrolls week, the U.S. economic signals were a little confusing too - with a decline in the August PMI manufacturing business survey index offset by a surge in the ISM equivalent for the same month.

The latter helped buoy the dollar further and 10-year Treasury yields popped briefly above 2.90 percent for the first time in almost four weeks, steepening the 2-10 year yield curve to 25 basis points in the process.

In contrast to the gloom building over emerging market economic readings, economic surprise indices for the G10 developed economies moved into positive territory on Tuesday for the first time since March with service sector business readings due out around the world on Wednesday. U.S. and European stock futures were lower meantime, with the euro/dollar exchange rate heavy below $1.16.

A man walks next to graffiti that reads 'IMF, get out' in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 4, 2018

Sterling remained on the backfoot too, shrugging off news on Tuesday that Bank of England chief Mark Carney was open to extending his term as governor for up to two more years and amid a hail of Brexit noises. It tilted positive and negative variously.

Italian government bond yields continued their retreat first thing Wednesday too as Italy’s deputy PM Salvini restated his commitment to meeting European Union budget rules.

— 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 —

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