World stocks up on Brexit hopes and Trump intervention on stimulus package

London — World stocks ticked up on Wednesday, as a last-minute intervention by US President Donald Trump dampened positive sentiment over a US stimulus deal, while the pound rose on the possibility of a Brexit agreement.

European stocks also got a lift from the Brexit deal hopes, rising 0.35%, though Britain’s internationally focused FTSE 100 index was down 0.15%.

Oil prices dropped after an industry report showed an unexpected rise in US crude oil inventories.

In a video posted on Twitter, Trump said the stimulus bill, agreed after months of wrangling in Congress, was “a disgrace” and that he wanted to increase “ridiculously low” $600 cheques for individuals to $2,000.

“Trump has derailed US fiscal hopes, refusing to sign the $900bn pandemic relief bill that was passed after a long-drawn stalemate between Democrats and Republicans,” analysts at Mizuho wrote in a note to clients. “And so, hopes for an unambiguous ‘Santa rally’ have been tragically hijacked.”

Some traders said Trump’s push for higher stimulus could lead to a spending increase. The bill could be amended if the congressional leadership wants to do so, and if they don’t, Trump’s choices are to sign the bill into law, veto it, or do nothing and let it become law.

The stimulus funds are needed as the US recovery stalls and hospitals struggle to cope with a nationwide spike in coronavirus infections at the same time as an even more contagious variant of the disease spreads quickly in Britain.

The possibility of a delay to such long-awaited and hard-fought spending plans sent S&P 500 futures down as far as 1% below the index’s Tuesday close, but they recovered to trade 0.22% higher.

The MSCI world stock index rose 0.23%, though it was trading more than 1% below record highs struck last week. The index is eyeing gains of over 12% for 2020, as trillions of dollars in stimulus have outweighed pandemic pain this year.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan snapped three days of declines with a 0.6% rise, led by a jump in electric vehicle stocks in South Korea and China after LG Electronics announced a production deal.

Tech and healthcare stocks pushed Japan’s Nikkei 0.3% higher and Australian shares rose 0.7%, though volumes were light.

Wednesday deal?

Britain and the EU are nearing a December 31 deadline for a Brexit transition period and have yet to agree on a trade deal.

ITV’s political editor said in a late-night tweet that separate sources had raised the possibility of the two sides striking a deal on Wednesday.

“Sterling is off its lows — there’s a little twinkle of optimism around that deal,” said Jane Foley, head of forex strategy at Rabobank. However, a British minister said on Wednesday that serious issues remained unresolved.

The minister also said he hoped trucks would start crossing into France again on Wednesday after Paris lifted its ban on freight coming from Britain because of the new coronavirus variant.

Sterling rose 0.4% against the dollar above $1.34 and strengthened against the euro to 90.82p. The dollar index was flat at 90.463 and the euro was also steady against the dollar, while eurozone bonds were little changed.

Brent crude futures dropped 0.6% to $49.78 a barrel and US crude futures fell 0.74% to $46.68. Gold rallied 0.5% to $1,868 an ounce.