Shares gain as Fed looms, pound rides new Brexit twists

Shares gain as Fed looms, pound rides new Brexit twists

LONDON (Reuters) – World shares basked in their longest winning streak of the year ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting on Tuesday, while the pound kept calm after another dramatic twist in the Brexit plot bolstered bets on a lengthy delay to the process.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work at Frankfurt’s stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

With traders expecting soothing sounds from the Fed’s two-day meeting which starts later, Europe’s 0.6 – 1 percent gains lifted MSCI’s 47-country world index for a seventh straight day and to its highest since October.

Asia had kept to tight ranges during its session, but all three major Wall Street futures gauges were pointing up again after bank and tech stocks had helped extend a 20 percent charge in U.S. markets this year on Monday.

The dollar though was feeling the strain, skulking near a two-week low on the bets that with both U.S. and global growth now slowing the Fed will need to put any remaining rate hike plans firmly on ice.

“The market has priced that the Fed’s next move will be a (rate) cut,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, adding that it may have to if U.S. data continues to sour and key indicators such as the U.S. yield curve start flashing warning signs again.

Investors will particularly look to see whether policymakers have sufficiently lowered their interest rate forecasts to more closely align their “dot plot”, a diagram showing individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years.

Also expected is more detail on a plan to stop cutting the Fed’s holdings of nearly $3.8 trillion in bonds.

“A key focus is when the Fed will omit the word ‘patient’ from its statement, as that would be a pre-requisite for a rate hike,” said Toru Yamamoto, chief fixed income strategist at Daiwa Securities.

BREXIT CHAOS

In currency markets, sterling clawed up to $1.3282 after slipping to as low as $1.3183 in the previous session as lawmakers cast doubt on Prime Minister Theresa May’s third attempt to get parliament to back her Brexit deal.

May’s Brexit plans were thrown into further turmoil on Monday when the speaker of parliament ruled that she could not put her divorce deal to a new vote unless it was re-submitted in fundamentally different form.

May has only two days to win approval for her deal to leave the European Union if she wants to go to a summit with the bloc’s leaders on Thursday with something to offer them in return for more time.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats said the European Union leaders could hold off making any final decision on any Brexit delay when they meet in Brussels later this week, depending on what exactly May asks them for.

“The predominant notion adopted by the market is that as long as the worst case scenario of hard Brexit is avoided by delaying Brexit, the pound is a buy on dips,” Rabobank strategists said in a note.

With dollar down ahead of the Fed, some brighter German confidence data helped the euro make it to $1.1358 and the Japanese yen inched up 0.1 percent to 111.28 yen to the U.S. currency.

Among commodities, oil prices were at 2019 highs, supported by supply cuts led by producer club OPEC. U.S. sanctions against oil producers Iran and Venezuela are also boosting prices, although traders said the market may be capped by rising U.S. output.

FILE PHOTO: Men look at stock quotation boards outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures gained 0.2 percent to $59.50 per barrel, while Brent crude futures rose as far as $68.20 to just better it previous year high of $68.14.

Precious metal palladium, used in things like car catalytic converters, topped the $1,600 an ounce mark for the first time as news that Russia is planning to ban exports of precious metals scrap fueled concerns over an already supply-constrained market.

Prices have nearly doubled since their mid-August lows and have surged about 27 percent this year.

Additional reporting by Tom Finn in London and Tomo Uetake in Tokyo; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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