Traders sit in pods on the trading floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, operated by Deutsche Boerse AG, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Picture: ALEX KRAUS / BLOOMBERG
Traders sit in pods on the trading floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, operated by Deutsche Boerse AG, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Picture: ALEX KRAUS / BLOOMBERG

London — Confirmation of a new Brexit deal lit a fire under Europe’s financial markets on Thursday, sending sterling to a five-month high, European stocks to a year-and-a-half peak, and causing safe-haven assets to plummet.

It isn’t a completely clear Brexit road ahead. Familiar Irish border snags remain] a spoiler for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), but after three years of tortuous uncertainty any deal was a deal to cheer.

“We have a great new Brexit deal,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said and “Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one!” echoed European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as the news broke from Brussels.

Sterling, which has been the key gauge of Brexit sentiment all along, jumped more than 1% against the dollar, taking its gains over the past six days to 6% and which, if it holds, will be a more than 30-year record. It ran as far as $1.2988 to the highest against the euro since May at 0.86p.

The euro also jumped to a near two-month high against the dollar of $1.1139 in its sixth day of gains in the past seven.

“The deal has been announced, but the key hurdle of being voted into the UK parliament remains,” said ING’s chief EMEA forex and interest rate strategist Petr Krpata.

London’s heavyweight FTSE and the pan-European Stoxx 600 both jumped 0.6%, having been flat beforehand. UK gilts, German bunds, the Swiss franc, gold and most other safe havens began selling off.

Barclays Capital European equities strategist Emmanuel Cau said the deal “should provide legs to the rotation from UK exporters to domestic plays” as it should help rebuild confidence.

Talking Turkey

Wall Street was expected to re-open higher and emerging-market stocks gained for a sixth day — their longest winning streak since early April — after US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said US and Chinese trade negotiators are nailing down a phase one trade-deal text for their presidents to sign next month.

However, US retail sales fell for the first time in seven months, suggesting manufacturing-led weakness is spreading to the broader economy. US consumption has been one of few bright spots in the global economy, so the data fanned worries that the trade war would ultimately tip the world into recession.

“While the US suspended a hike in tariffs, it hasn’t gone as far as scrapping the tariffs altogether, so it is hard to expect a quick pick-up in the economy,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

The dollar index was last at 97.692, having reached its lowest level since August 27. The dollar was flat at ¥108.75 after peaking at ¥108.90, and down against the euro at $1.11.

In commodities, oil prices slipped after industry data showed a larger-than-expected build-up in US crude stockpiles, adding to concerns that global demand for oil may weaken amid further signs of an economic slowdown. Brent crude futures fell 0.25% to $59.27 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude lost 0.5% to $53.01.

Turkey’s fragile markets remained in focus after the country’s military advance in Syria created tensions with US and Europe and incurred mild sanctions. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan is to meet US vice-president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo later.

Although the US pulled its troops out of the area to allow Turkey’s push, Pence and Pompeo are expected to urge Erdoğan  to declare a ceasefire, something Erdoğan says will “never” happen. US President Donald Trump warned of “devastating” sanctions if discussions did not go well.

Turkish stocks were down 1.8% and the lira weakened to 5.8877 to the dollar. It has lost nearly 5% this month, making it the world’s worst performer for October.