Stock markets climb on trade talks optimism
NEW YORK, March 16: Stock markets rose across the globe on Friday, lifted by the latest encouraging reports from the US-China trade talks while the pound ended a volatile Brexit-fueled week on a strong note.
China's official Xinhua news agency reported "substantial progress" had occurred in a call that Beijing's trade enjoy Liu He held with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
That added to a positive tone struck Thursday by US President Donald Trump.
"Comments coming from the Chinese side were positive. That helped despite the fact the US president suggested he could walk away from a deal this week," Quincy Krosby of Prudential Financial told AFP.
On Wall Street, the major indices closed with gains for the week, as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit their highest levels since early October.
Analysts however pointed out some enthusiasm could have been due to the quarterly expiry of stock options and index futures.
The main European markets likewise all closed higher and Tokyo's main stocks index gained -- even though the Bank of Japan issued a more downbeat assessment of the world's third-biggest economy, as a broader global slowdown weighs on exports and production.
"Brexit volatility appears to have calmed," said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG trading group. "Meanwhile, US-China trade talk hopes have improved."
On Friday, China approved a foreign investment law that will abolish the forced transfer of technology from foreign firms to local joint-venture partners, addressing a central demand by the White House.
On currency markets, the pound climbed against the dollar and euro after a week that saw wild fluctuations for the British unit, sparked by Brexit twists and turns.
British Prime Minister Theresa May's EU withdrawal agreement was this week rejected by parliament for a second time.
But the divorce deal could yet return from the dead should hardcore Brexiteers fear a delay could produce an even softer Brexit than what is currently on offer.
"There's still a significant amount of tail risk in being overly exposed to sterling" because of Brexit uncertainty, said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
"Ultimately talk is cheap, and markets require certainty, something that still remains in short supply." -AFP