Virus Hits Pound, Aussie as Stimulus Talks Weighed: Markets Wrap

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Progress on a U.S. stimulus package curbed appetite for the yen and Swiss franc, while concerns about the U.K.’s worsening virus outbreak and Brexit talks sent the pound lower.

Moves were pronounced early Monday across currency markets, with the pound under pressure as “significant differences” remain in trade talks between the U.K. and the European Union. Congressional negotiators in the U.S. reached a compromise that may clear the way for a final agreement on a roughly $900 billion spending plan. The Aussie slipped amid new restrictions in Sydney due to a growing virus cluster. Asian stocks may search for direction after U.S. equities dipped on Friday.

Traders remain on edge as Congress races to finalize the fiscal spending deal, with a vote possibly hours away. “We’re really, really close,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, but his deputy John Cornyn said a vote might not come today.

“For many, the end of 2020 cannot come soon enough,” said Simon Ballard, chief economist at First Abu Dhabi Bank Pjsc. “The pathogen has wrought mayhem across financial markets and so we expect the New Year wish of many market participants to be that the arrival and initial distribution of coronavirus vaccines now signals light at the end of a very tiring and debilitating tunnel.”

More than 16 million Britons are now required to stay at home as a full lockdown came into force in London and the southeast of England, with some European countries taking steps to limit travel with the U.K. In the U.S., Covid-19 immunizations with the newly authorized Moderna Inc. shot will likely begin Monday.

Meantime, Beijing threatened to impose countermeasures after Washington blacklisted more than 60 Chinese companies.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 Index fell 0.3% on Friday.
  • Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.1% late Friday.
  • Hang Seng futures slipped 0.2% on Friday.
  • Futures on Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index dipped 0.2% on Friday.

Currencies

  • The yen lost 0.2% to 103.48 per dollar.
  • The euro fell 0.3% to $1.2218.
  • The pound dropped 0.7% to $1.3430.
  • The offshore yuan was at 6.5204 per dollar.
  • The Aussie declined 0.4% to 75.89 U.S. cents.

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose two basis points to 0.95% on Friday.

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1.5% to $49.10 a barrel on Friday.
  • Gold dipped 0.2% to $1,881.35 an ounce.

— With assistance by Benjamin Purvis, and Michael G Wilson

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