MORNING BID EUROPE-Scotland eyes post-Brexit future

by Reuters
Wednesday, 24 April 2019 07:27 GMT

* A look at the day ahead from European Economics and Politics Editor Mark John and EMEA markets editor Mike Dolan. The views expressed are their own.

LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is due to make a long-awaited speech this afternoon setting out "a path forward" for Scotland and making explicit reference to the possibility of a new referendum on independence. While London insists the 2014 vote in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom should be the final word, Sturgeon argues the chaos triggered by Britain's Brexit vote two years later - in which Scotland heavily backed Remain - creates new facts on the ground. Fostering a decisive shift in the local mood towards independence will be key to whether this gets momentum: On Thursday a huge, crowd-funded, grassroots "indy" group will begin a doorknocking campaign to push up support for a new Scotland.

Italy's ruling parties, the right-wing League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, were always going to be strange bedfellows, and now they are at loggerheads as they jockey for votes ahead of European Parliament elections on May 26. In the early hours of this morning they managed to agree an economic growth plan after a row about debt relief for the 5 Star-administered Rome municipality. But investors are still pricing in the chance of a government collapse over a separate feud about corruption. Armando Siri, a transport ministry official and economic adviser to League chief Matteo Salvini, has been put under investigation for allegedly accepting bribes. 5-Star, whose whole pitch to voters was about eradicating decades of graft, wants him to resign; Salvini insists he should stay.

Western security officials in the so-called "Five Eyes" network of Anglophone countries meet in Glasgow today for talks that look set to be dominated by differences over dealings with China's Huawei Technologies. Officials in the United States and elsewhere have been increasingly public in voicing concerns that Huawei's equipment could be used by Beijing for spying or sabotage, particularly as operators move to 5G networks. Given those concerns, Britain is saying that Huawei will only have restricted access to non-core parts of its network: it remains to be seen whether that satisfies its security partners.

MARKETS AT 0655 GMT Wall Street's ebullience, which saw the S&P500 reach a record closing high on Tuesday in the thick of the first-quarter earnings season, was not matched by Asia markets overnight. This week's oil price surge amid the planned removal of U.S. waivers on sanctions with Iran – which mostly affect the big Asian economies – and a warning on future chip demand from Texas Instruments after the bell on Tuesday dragged down Asia's main markets despite the U.S. rally. The sour outlook from TI, which saw its stock drop 3 percent after hours, hit the likes of Samsung overnight, and South Korea's Kospi underperformed with losses of almost 1 percent. Japan's Nikkei also fell as Nissan tumbled 4 percent on reports it would announce a large cut to its earnings outlook for the fiscal year that ended in March. Chinese markets also hesitated again amid reports the People's Bank of China will slow the pace of credit easing now that the economy has found a better footing. Shanghai and Hong Kong were down 0.25 to 0.5 percent.

The White House confirmed that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer will return to Beijing next week to resume trade talks. The offshore yuan steadied after slipping against a generally stronger dollar on Tuesday, with the DXY dollar index against major developed- economy currencies rallying to its highest since June 2017 on Tuesday and to its highest against emerging-market currencies in more than three weeks.

The dollar's gain was partly caused by rising expectations for Friday's first-quarter gross domestic product after upbeat readings on retail sales and exports, but also the impressive earnings season. With almost a quarter of the S&P500 now reporting, aggregate annual profit growth is about 6 percent – ahead of the expected 1.1 percent overall contraction for the full 500. But the dollar gained as much because of weakness in the other major currencies. Sterling led the move lower, dropping to its lowest since mid-February as Brexit talks between the government and opposition Labour Party appeared to flounder and pressure grew from factions within her own party for UK PM Theresa May to step down. This came despite CFTC data showing more balanced speculative positioning on sterling over the most recent week. Finance Minister Philip Hammond also announced on Wednesday he was officially starting his search to replace Bank of England chief Mark Carney when he steps down later this year. Elsewhere, the Australian dollar fell as sub-forecast inflation raised bets on a possible interest rate cut there, and the Canadian dollar dialled back ahead of the Bank of Canada's latest policy decision on Wednesday.

In Europe, stock futures were down before the open, with better-than-expected results from Credit Suisse catching eyes but auto stocks threatened after Japan's Nissan slashed its profit outlook. Euro/dollar tried to regain a foothold above $1.12 first thing after Tuesday's dollar jump, with eyes on Italy where sovereign debt yields rose to their highest in seven weeks amid unease over government infighting and a credit ratings review from S&P Global on Friday. Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields slipped back below 2.55 percent. Brent crude oil prices retreated to $74. * Europe corp events: Akzo Nobel, Credit Suisse, STMicro, SAP, Eni, Heineken, Novartis, Remy Cointreau, Volvo, Boohoo, Ranstad, Finnair, AB Foods, Carrefour sales, Glanbia trading, CRH trading

* Germany April Ifo business sentiment

* UK finance minister Hammond speaks to parliament to update on spring budget statement

* Bank of Canada policy decision, press conference

* US Q1 earnings: AT&T, Boeing, Caterpillar, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, Paypal

(Editing by x x)

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