Pound recovers as world supports Britain in spy case

The British pound recovered Friday from weakness prompted by a Russian decision to expel British diplomats, as the world rallied in support for London in a crisis sparked by the poisoning of a double agent, analysts said.

World stocks, meanwhile, rose slightly at the end of a volatile week as fears lingered of a global trade war, tarnishing a positive economic outlook.

“Yesterday morning the pound fell on headlines that Russia was going to retaliate and expel British diplomats,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.

The pound then “started to recover” after the leaders of France, Germany and the United States blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal, saying there was “no plausible alternative explanation” for the assault.

“There is nothing like a Russian boogieman to bring EU and UK political adversaries together,” wrote Jasper Lawler, head of research at the London Capital Group.

European and US stocks rose Friday, after Donald Trump’s appointment this week of Larry Kudlow — a supporter of the president’s “America First” agenda but who has criticised his tariffs move — appeared to limit worries of an imminent trade war, at least on the European front.

In Germany, the EU’s economic powerhouse, the DAX was up as shares in Siemens’ Healthineers unit surged after the industrial giant raised 4.2 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in an initial public offering.

For the bloc as a whole, the main event was the final eurozone inflation reading for February, which came in at 1.1 percent.

“Clearly whatever the (European Central Bank) ECB is doing to get that (consumer price index) CPI figure creeping higher isn’t working, news that helped send the…DAX and CAC up,” Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex traders.

Attention now turns to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting next week. A rate rise is expected but its statement and new bank boss Jerome Powell’s comments will be pored over for clues about future hikes with speculation it could announce three more this year.

“It’s shaping up to be arguably one of the most critical central bank policy events in some time as Jay Powell gets set to dictate the course of Fed policy for the remainder of 2018 and beyond,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.

Further uncertainty has been fanned by reports that Trump is planning to sack his National Security Advisor HR McMaster, just days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was ousted and not long since Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn resigned.

Elsewhere on Friday, bitcoin was stable around $8,470 after heavy losses in recent days.

– Key figures around 1400 GMT –
New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 24,951.56 points

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,155.60

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.3 percent at 12,384.82

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,275.00

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.5 percent at 3,431.60

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 21,676.51 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 31,501.97 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2299 from $1.2300 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3938 from $1.3933

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.61 yen from 106.39 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: FLAT at $65.71 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 12 cents at $61.25

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