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Markets

Stocks hit fresh record peak, sterling eyes Brexit talks

  • U.S. lawmakers continued to negotiate over additional stimulus to help offset the economic impact of the pandemic while pursuing a stopgap government-funding bill.
Published December 9, 2020
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LONDON: Global stocks reached record highs on Wednesday as investors focused on efforts to provide more fiscal stimulus and positive news on COVID-19 vaccines, while sterling inched up as British and European leaders meet for talks on a Brexit trade deal.

U.S. lawmakers continued to negotiate over additional stimulus to help offset the economic impact of the pandemic while pursuing a stopgap government-funding bill.

Leaders in both parties remain adamant a deal must be struck but are still working through sticking points, including aid to state and local governments and business liability protections.

The steady march of positive news on COVID-19 vaccines also helped lift investor spirits.

Britain on Tuesday became the first Western nation to begin a wide vaccination campaign, and Johnson & Johnson reported it could obtain late-stage trial results for a single-dose vaccine in January, earlier than expected.

Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc cleared another hurdle when the U.S. health regulator released documents flagging no new safety or efficacy concerns.

"Momentum will be a little bit less than it has been. T here are certain questions to be answered about the logistics of the vaccines, and vaccines don't change the winter picture for the virus, but we are expecting positive returns for next year ... there's a lot going for the global economy," said Seema Shah, chief global strategist at Principal Global Investors.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe rose to a record 635.65, up 0.3pc.

The index has been on a roll for weeks, gaining 15pc since the beginning of last month.

European stocks reached nine-month highs as they opened up 0.65pc. German DAX futures gained 1pc and Britain's FTSE 100, which has been hardest hit of the main global indexes this year, added 0.8pc.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6pc overnight, touching a record high, U.S. futures pointed to Wall Street adding to its record high.

DINNER TALKS

The euro was down 0.2pc against the British pound and the pound was up 0.45pc versus the dollar before make-or-break talks on a trade deal between Britain and the European Union.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is awaited in Brussels for talks over dinner with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in what is considered a last-ditch attempt to avoid a no-trade-deal Brexit in three weeks' time.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was still a chance of a deal.

Euro zone bond yields - which move inversely to price - edged down before Thursday's European Central Bank meeting, at which further monetary stimulus has been signalled.

Portugal's 10-year bond yield, which fell this week to a record low of -0.01pc, squeaked into positive territory, at 0.004pc.

"That caps off a remarkable journey from the height of the sovereign debt crisis, when in early 2012 (the yield) was trading above 18pc intraday," Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note. Spain's 10-year yields could be next to go sub-zero, they said.

Against a basket of currencies, the safe-haven dollar sat at 90.755, just above a two-and-a-half-year low it hit last week on risk-on trades.

Highlighting the dollar's weakness, the offshore Chinese yuan strengthened past 6.5000 to reach its strongest in more than two years. The onshore yuan also traded near its highest in more than two years.

Australian shares gained 0.6pc. Japan's Nikkei rose 1.3pc to approach a 29 1/2-year high. Sentiment got an added boost after Japanese data pointed to a rebound in capital expenditure.

South Korean stocks also jumped by 1.6pc to trade near a record high after falling on Tuesday. Shares in China bucked the trend and fell 0.7pc on profit taking.

Oil prices rallied as the positive vaccine news lifted investor hopes for a recovery in fuel demand.

Brent crude futures rose 55 cents to $49.39 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures gained 49 cents to $46.17.

Spot gold fell 0.5pc to $1,862.35 per ounce as the start of vaccine treatment reduced safe-haven demand for the precious metal.

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