Pound down vs dollar after PM calls for election; S&P 500 gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The British pound fell against the dollar on Thursday after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a national election, while global stock markets edged higher.

Johnson said he was asking Parliament to approve the election for Dec. 12 in an effort to break the country’s deadlock over its exit from the European Union.

Trading in Sterling was choppy following the news but the currency recovered from session lows. Sterling was last trading at $1.2846, down 0.54% on the day. The dollar index benefited from the move in sterling, last up 0.16% against a basket of rival currencies at 97.65.

EU member states on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to grant Britain a three-month Brexit extension.

Third-quarter earnings reports took center stage again on Wall Street, where stocks ended mostly higher.

Upbeat earnings - including from Microsoft - offset disappointing results from Twitter and others. Investors also are trying to gauge the fallout from a prolonged U.S.-China trade war, which has already shown up in the domestic economy.

“Right now we’re seeing disparity in moves of the indexes. And that’s due primarily to the flow of earnings announcements as they surprise to the upside and disappoint to the downside,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“If consensus is building that a trough is occurring” in quarterly earnings changes, he said, that could end up being a positive for the stock market.

The latest estimate for third-quarter earnings for companies on the benchmark U.S. S&P 500 index improved slightly. Earnings now are expected to have declined 2.3% year-over-year in the quarter versus an estimated decline of 2.9% on Wednesday, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Tesla shares rallied a day after the company reported an unexpected third-quarter profit.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 28.42 points, or 0.11%, to 26,805.53, the S&P 500 gained 5.77 points, or 0.19%, to 3,010.29 and the Nasdaq Composite added 66.00 points, or 0.81%, to 8,185.80.

The S&P 500 briefly moved lower after comments from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who accused China of curtailing “rights and liberties” in Hong Kong but also insisted that the United States does not seek confrontation or to “de-couple” from its main economic rival.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.59% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.37%.

Results from German companies including Daimler helped to boost Europe’s indexes.

In commodities markets, oil prices rose as a surprise drop in U.S. crude inventories and the prospect of further market-supporting action by OPEC and its allies offset some concern over the outlook for demand.

U.S. crude climbed 26 cents to settle at $56.23 a barrel, while Brent rose 50 cents to settle at $61.67.

U.S. Treasury yields edged higher after trading lower for much of the session. Investors consolidated positions ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting that is expected to result in an interest rate cut for a third time this year.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 4/32 in price to yield 1.7713%, from 1.759% late on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, Marc Jones in London and Sujata Rao; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman