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GLOBAL MARKETS-Sterling soars, stocks and US dollar fall on geopolitical concern; gold up
April 18, 2017 / 5:04 PM / 6 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Sterling soars, stocks and US dollar fall on geopolitical concern; gold up

(Updates prices, changes comments)

* Snap British election boosts sterling

* Gold up, crude oil at 11-day low

* Focus on French elections this weekend, Korean peninsula

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - Sterling jumped along with gold, and stocks and the U.S. dollar fell on Tuesday, after Britain called a snap election for June, adding to investors concern about geopolitical instability.

Sterling jumped as much as 1.6 percent against the dollar to hit its highest levels since mid-December, after British Prime Minister Theresa May surprised markets by calling for an early parliamentary election in June.

Investors also remain concerned about the French presidential election this weekend and the possibility of military action against North Korea.

In France, opinion polls have for months shown far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron qualifying next Sunday for the May 7 run-off, in what remains the most significant threat to the eurozone and EU in years.

In New York, disappointing quarterly results from corporate heavyweights Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson dragged Wall Street stocks lower.

Investors are also concerned that the recent flaring of geopolitical tensions has shifted focus away from business-friendly reforms in the United States that were seen as the fuel to the equities rally that peaked in early March.

“With concerns of the (U.S. President Donald) Trump agenda being pushed out a little bit and with the geopolitical tensions, this (earnings disappointments) is not the kind of news you needed,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 144.82 points, or 0.7 percent, to 20,492.1, the S&P 500 lost 11.29 points, or 0.48 percent, to 2,337.72 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 23.34 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,833.45.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 1.21 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.61 percent.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.68 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.9 percent lower, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.35 percent.

The pound rallied as British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early election on June 8, saying she needed to strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union.

Deutsche Bank said the surprise election call is a “game-changer” for the currency, and that it will raise its forecasts for the pound in the coming days.

The U.S. dollar was also pressured by lower Treasury yields.

“We still think the dollar is going to strengthen over time based on the outlook for U.S. monetary policy... but for now, with markets not heavily focused on monetary policy, it could explain this consolidation” for the greenback, said Eric Viloria, currency strategist at Wells Fargo.

The dollar index fell 0.51 percent, with the euro up 0.55 percent to $1.0699.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.37 percent versus the greenback at 108.51 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2762, up 1.60 percent on the day.

Oil prices were weighed by concerns that U.S. production growth is undermining efforts to cut oversupply after a U.S. government report said shale oil output in May was expected to post the biggest monthly increase in more than two years.

U.S. crude fell 0.49 percent to $52.39 per barrel and Brent was last at $54.88, down 0.87 percent on the day.

U.S. Treasury yields fell as nervousness ahead of France’s first round of Presidential elections this weekend and ongoing geopolitical tensions increased demand for safe-haven U.S. debt.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 17/32 in price to yield 2.1912 percent, from 2.252 percent late on Monday.

Gold rose and was not far from an intraday five-month high touched Monday, bolstered by the weaker dollar, North Korea tensions and the French presidential election.

Spot gold added 0.4 percent to $1,289.50 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.03 percent to $1,291.50 an ounce.

Copper lost 1.94 percent to $5,581.50 a tonne.

Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru and Karen Brettell, Fergal Smith, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Clive McKeef

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