February 14, 2018 / 8:27 AM / 8 days ago

Daily Briefing: Johnson pitches "no fear" Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is promising to use a speech in London to "anatomise" some of the fears around Brexit and prove they are unfounded.

This is the first of a series of Brexit-themed addresses by senior UK ministers and possibly the least comfortable for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Johnson's aides say he is becoming increasingly frustrated at the how May's indecision is squandering the fruits of what he believes could have been a quick and clean Brexit; others of course point out that his "have your cake and eat it" approach to ties with the EU was never going to wash with Brussels.

As the weeks go by with no clear statement yet from Britain on what it wants from future relations with the EU, its negotiating partners at EU headquarters are becoming increasingly perplexed.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star movement, has promised to launch an investigation after reports that some of its parliamentarians broke party rules obliging them to give half their salaries to a fund to help small businesses.

The affair is deeply embarrassing - and potentially damaging - for the self-styled anti-elite "honesty party" ahead of the March 4 election and one senator has suspended his 5-Star membership in response to the investigative report.

That was broadcast by an Italian television channel owned by rival Silvio Berlusconi, whose right-wing bloc is seen by many as favourite to win.

Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, who is in line to be Germany’s new finance minister, speaks to supporters of his centre-left SPD at a political Ash Wednesday event in Bavaria.

It will be interesting to see what tack Scholz, a fiscally conservative centrist, takes: if he is to take up his post he first has to help persuade reticent grass roots supporters to back the grand coalition deal with Angela Merkel in a postal ballot currently being conducted.

MARKETS AT 0755 GMT

Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday? It’s been that sort year so far for world markets, though we may see which wins out today depending on the latest U.S. inflation readings.

Right now, global stocks appear to be healing slowly from the shock of the past two weeks, with MSCI’s all-country index up for the fourth session in a row after a small gain on Wall St last night and another gradual ebbing of both the ViX volatility gauge as well as 10-year U.S. Treasury yields.

The dollar index has also resumed its decline with gusto and is down 0.2 percent first thing. While the weaker dollar is boon to most emerging markets, dollar/yen’s slide to its lowest since November 2016 has weighed on the underperforming Nikkei225 in Japan.

The tentative optimism elsewhere, where emerging Asia bourses as well as European and U.S. stock futures are all higher, hinges largely on Wednesday’s two key economic data set pieces on either side of the Atlantic. Speaking to the rollercoaster ride on markets over the past six weeks, euro zone fourth quarter gross domestic product numbers are expected to show the best annual growth numbers there in more than 10 years while U.S. consumer price inflation data for January later in the day will inform growing speculation the U.S. economy is now overheating. Consensus forecasts at least point to some easing of both headline U.S. inflation, to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent, and the core inflation rate. If so, it will soothe concerns that the late-cycle U.S. fiscal stimulus of tax cuts and spending increases is already generating price pressures.

Ten-year Treasury yields were a touch lower on Wednesday in advance of the numbers, below 2.83 percent compared to the four-year high above 2.90 percent hit early on Monday. Euro/dollar was firmer about $1.2365, meantime, as the euro zone GDP numbers started coming in country by country.

Sweden’s crown was marginally stronger ahead of the latest Riksbank policy decision. No change in its extremely loose monetary stance is expected today, but markets are starting to speculate about some tightening later in the year alongside as the European Central Bank’s bond-buying stimulus winds down.

South Africa's rand firmed slightly on expectations President Zuma would finally offer his formal resignation after the ruling African National Congress ordered the 75-year-old to step down. Zuma is expected to respond on Wednesday to the ANC's order, even though the party gave him no firm deadline to resign.  Heavily armed South African police raided the luxury home of the influential Gupta family on Wednesday as part of a probe into allegations the three brothers had corrupt business links with Zuma.

Editing by Alison Williams

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