Pound falls again amid Brexit chaos

AFP . New York | Update:

The British pound retreated Friday after London requested another extension in the long-running Brexit saga while global stocks rose modestly on US-China trade talk hopes and solid US jobs data.

British prime minister Theresa May asked the European Union to delay Britain's departure until 30 June, while the bloc itself suggested that it might be best to postpone the split for up to a year.

As so often before, sheer uncertainty over Britain's future weighed on sterling but the currency's downside was limited by expectations that the exit from the EU will be softened by some kind of agreement with the bloc.

"As far as most currency traders are concerned the chances of a no-deal remain remote -- but at the same time a satisfactory outcome anytime soon also seems highly unlikely," said XTB analyst David Cheetham.

In stock market deals London gained solidly as the pound slid, while Paris and Frankfurt had only small gains to show for the day's trading.

Wall Street stocks climbed after the labour department reported that the US added 196,000 net new positions last month, well above expectations, while the jobless rate held steady at 3.8 per cent.

Analysts viewed the report as highly favorable to stocks because it lessened fears of a profound economic slowdown. At the same time, wage inflation moderated, reducing the chances the Federal Reserve will shift to a more hawkish posture.

"The jobs report was just perfect for equities," said LBBW's Karl Haeling.

The S&P 500 closed the week with a gain of 2.1 per cent, lifting its total advance in 2019 to 15.4 per cent.

Lingering optimism on trade
Asian equity indices mostly rose in holiday-thinned trade on hopes that China and the United States will hammer out a trade deal after both sides sounded notes of optimism.

With top negotiators from the world's top two economies huddled down in Washington for three days of talks, there has been a growing sense they are close to an agreement to end a stand-off that battered global equities last year.

However, Trump himself stopped short of saying a deal was certain.

"I don't want to predict a deal or not a deal, but we're very well along," the US president said Friday. "We have really negotiated probably the two hardest points."

Among individual stocks, Tesla Motors advanced 2.7 per cent, winning back some of Thursday's 8.2 per cent drop following weak first-quarter auto deliveries.

Tesla's advance came after a federal judge on Thursday directed the company's chief executive, Elon Musk, to meet with officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission after the agency asked the court to find Musk in contempt for allegedly flouting a settlement with the agency.

Boeing fell 2.3 per cent in after-hours trading after it announced it was cutting its production schedule of its 737 aircraft to 42 planes per month, down from 52 per month, starting in mid-April.

The move comes as the global fleet of 737 MAX planes has been grounded following two deadly crashes.

   
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