November 15, 2018 / 12:54 AM / in 4 months

Sterling scarred by Brexit turmoil; Asia shares hold trade hopes

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The British pound lay battered in Asia on Friday after a bout of political turmoil fanned fears the country could crash out of the European Union without a divorce deal.

FILE PHOTO: British five pound banknotes.November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Asian share markets looked set to fare better as hopes for a thaw in Sino-U.S. trade relations gave Wall Street a fillip, though there were duelling reports on the prospects for an actual agreement.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was ahead 0.15 percent in very early trade, while Nikkei futures NKc1 pointed to a firmer opening.

Still, sterling stole the limelight after a rash of resignations rocked Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and threw into doubt her long-awaited Brexit agreement just hours after it was unveiled. GBP

Fears that May’s hard-fought deal could collapse sent British markets into gyrations not seen since the June 2016 referendum on EU membership. [nL8N1XQ1W6]

The pound suffered its worst one-day loss against the euro since October 2016 and was last at 88.68 pence EURGBP=D3. Against the dollar, it was huddled at $1.2765 GBP=D3 after shedding 1.6 percent overnight.

Joseph Capurso, a senior currency strategist at CBA, listed just some of sterling’s woes.

“If and when a vote on the withdrawal agreement occurs is uncertain. Whether the withdrawal bill is passed by both houses of Parliament is uncertain.”

“Whether the Prime Minister resigns or is challenged for the leadership is uncertain. And, whether there is a second referendum and/or an election is uncertain.”

All of which helped British bonds rally sharply as investors wagered the political chaos and risk of a hard Brexit would deter the Bank of England from tightening anytime soon.

Yields on 5-year paper GB5YT=RR staged the largest one-day decline since the Brexit vote at almost 15 basis points.

DID HE? OR DIDN’T HE?

Absent the British drama, investors chose to be optimistic on the chance of progress on tariffs between the United States and China.

A Financial Times report said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has told some industry executives that another round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports has been put on hold.

CNBC later reported that Lighthizer’s office had denied the story, but markets were cheered anyway. [nW1N1WQ02E] [nS0N1WS01B]

The benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX gained 1.06 percent to snap five days of losses, while the Dow .DJI rose 0.83 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 1.72 percent. [.N]

The plunge in sterling lifted the dollar against a basket of currencies to 97.066 .DXY, even as the euro firmed a touch to $1.1328 EUR=. [USD/]

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

In commodity markets, gold was flat at $1,212.97 XAU=.

Oil prices regained some composure after their recent drubbing, helped by a decline in U.S. fuel stockpiles and the possibility of a cut in OPEC output. [O/R]

Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose 58 cents to $66.70 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 was up 21 cents at $56.46.

Editing by Sam Holmes

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