1. Sterling retreats after Manchester blast, opinion polls, stocks mixed

Sterling retreats after Manchester blast, opinion polls, stocks mixed

Sterling extended losses on Tuesday after a suspected terrorist attack killed at least 19 people and wounded 50 at a pop concert in Manchester, while the euro held gains made after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the currency was "too weak."

By: | Published: May 23, 2017 8:36 AM
Sterling eased 0.1 percent to .299, extending Monday’s 0.3 percent loss.

Sterling extended losses on Tuesday after a suspected terrorist attack killed at least 19 people and wounded 50 at a pop concert in Manchester, while the euro held gains made after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the currency was “too weak.” The incident took place just two-and-a-half weeks before an election that Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to win easily, though polls showing that was the contest tightening had put sterling under some pressure.

Sterling eased 0.1 percent to $1.299, extending Monday’s 0.3 percent loss. The pound dropped 0.3 percent to 144.32 yen, after losing 0.2 percent on Monday. If the attack on the concert by U.S. singer Arianna Grande is confirmed as a terrorist incident, this would be the deadliest attack in Britain by militants since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005.

“We could see a bout of nervousness re the terror threat, but it’s likely to be minor,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney. “Ever since 9/11, the impact on markets from terrorist events has been declining.”

The euro hit a six-month high overnight after Chancellor Merkel said a euro that was “to weak”, due to the European Central Bank’s monetary policy, helped explain Germany’s relatively high trade surplus. The euro inched higher to $1.1244 after jumping as much as 0.5 percent and closing 0.3 percent higher on Monday.

“The thing with euro/dollar is that you have quite a positive mood on the euro at the moment,” said ABN Amro foreign exchange strategist Georgette Boele. “And when Merkel makes comments that the euro is probably too low then this is taken as another positive reason to push it higher.” MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was steady on Tuesday. It hit its highest level since May 2015 on Monday, posting its biggest one-day gain in over two months.

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Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.15 percent. Chinese shares fell 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to its highest level since July 2015. Australian shares slipped almost 0.1 percent, while South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.1 percent.

Overnight, Wall Street closed as much as 0.8 percent higher, driven by defense and technology stocks, after U.S. President Donald Trump announced arms deals and other investments with Saudi Arabia over the weekend that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said could add up to $350 billion.

An uncertain political climate in the U.S. continued to weigh on the dollar, but a slowdown in Japanese manufacturing activity limited losses versus the yen. The dollar weakened 0.1 percent to 111.15 yen. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was almost 0.1 percent lower at 96.916.

Losses were also kept in check by a gauge of U.S. economic activity that improved in April to its highest level since late 2014, suggesting an acceleration in production and hiring activity following an anaemic first quarter. The White House is set to deliver President Donald Trump’s first full budget to lawmakers on Tuesday, a plan that would cut $3.6 trillion in government spending over 10 years, balancing the budget by the end of the decade.

Presidential budgets are often ignored by Congress, which controls federal purse strings. In commodities, oil prices were higher on growing confidence that top exporters would agree to extend supply curbs this week and speculation that the cuts could be deepened further.

U.S. crude futures jumped 0.7 percent to $51.10 a barrel in its fifth straight session of gains. It touched its highest level in more than a month earlier. Global benchmark Brent edged down marginally to $53.82 but retained most of Monday’s 0.45 percent gain. The weaker dollar lifted gold, which climbed 0.2 percent to $1,262.78 an ounce in its third straight session of gains.

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