European stocks still poised for positive start

Sterling slips after Manchester blast, euro steady, stocks advance

 23 May 2017 - 8:54

Sterling slips after Manchester blast, euro steady, stocks advance
A police forensic officer stands by one of the entrances to the Manchester Arena, scene of a terror attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, northwest England on May 23, 2017. AFP / Paul ELLIS

By Nichola Saminather | Reuters

SINGAPORE: Sterling slipped on Tuesday after a suspected suicide attack killed at least 19 people and wounded 59 at a pop concert in the English city of Manchester, while the euro held gains made after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was "too weak".

Despite the explosion, at a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande, European markets were poised for a positive start.

Financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open up 0.1 percent, and Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 to start the day marginally higher.

The attack came just two-and-a-half weeks before an election that Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to win easily, although polls showing that the contest was tightening added to sterling's woes.

Sterling eased almost 0.1 percent to $1.299, recovering some earlier losses. It fell 0.3 percent on Monday.

The pound dropped 0.3 percent to 144.27 yen, after losing 0.2 percent on Monday.

If the blast is confirmed as a terrorist incident, it 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.

The impact on other areas of the market was limited, with Britain's FTSE futures up 0.1 percent, while S&P E-mini futures slipped 0.1 percent.

"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 Merkel said the currency, made "too weak" by the European Central Bank's monetary policy, helped explain Germany's relatively high trade surplus.

The common currency edged up almost 0.1 percent to $1.1245 after jumping as much as 0.5 percent and closing 0.3 percent higher on Monday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan pared gains after hitting its highest level since June 2015 to trade fractionally higher.

Japan's Nikkei slid 0.2 percent.

Korean shares surged 0.8 percent, remaining slightly below an all-time high hit earlier on Tuesday.

Chinese shares surrendered gains to drop 0.1 percent on concerns over a regulatory crackdown on risky lending practices. The Shanghai Composite lost 0.7 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent after earlier rising to its highest level since July 2015.

Overnight, Wall Street closed as much as 0.8 percent higher, driven by defence 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 was slightly lower at 111.20 yen.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was 0.1 percent lower at 96.894.

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.

The White House is set to deliver Trump's first full budget to lawmakers later on Tuesday. The plan 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.

But the budget plan, which proposed the sale of half the country's strategic oil reserves, weighed on crude futures, offsetting optimism over expectations that other major oil producers would agree to extend supply curbs this week.

Global benchmark Brent retreated 0.6 percent to$53.54 a barrel.

U.S. crude futures gave up some gains but were 0.2 percent higher at $50.84, after hitting their highest level in more than a month earlier in the session.

The weaker dollar lifted gold slightly. Spot gold climbed 0.2 percent to $1,262.82 an ounce in its third straight session of gains.