The vote to approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill in principle will set Britain on course to leave the European Union as scheduled on Jan. 31. Britain's FTSE 100 inched up 0.1% to 7,585 while the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.5% to 6,001. Germany's DAX also rose 0.5% 13,283. U.S. shares wavered between small gains and small losses, with the future contract for the S&P 500 down less than 0.1% and the contract for the Dow Jones up less than 0.1%.
The major U.S. stock indexes have climbed to record highs as investors welcomed the news that Washington and Beijing had taken steps to cool their trade conflict. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that a preliminary trade deal with China would be ready for signing in early January. Mnuchin told CNBC that he was “very confident” the deal would help rebalance trade and open Chinese markets to more American products and services.
The deal with Beijing is “just going through what I would consider to be a technical, legal scrub," Mnuchin said. He said he expected the agreement to result in a doubling of U.S. farm exports to China and that American farmers would be up to the task. China, however, has not confirmed any details of its plans for purchases of U.S. farm products. A Commerce Ministry spokesman in Beijing on Thursday said only that the two sides were in “close communication.”
“Indeed, agreement of the ‘Phase 1’ deal between the U.S. and China has removed quite a lot of uncertainties in the outlook for 2020, and with the global growth revival trade is looking better and better by the day, equity investors are reveling in the holiday cheer,” Stephen Innes of AxiTrader said in a commentary.
U.S. markets have mostly shrugged off the impeachment of President Donald Trump by the House of Representatives, choosing to focus instead on encouraging earnings reports from several big companies. Trump became just the third U.S. president to be impeached after the House voted Wednesday on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress in an investigation.
“We’ve kind of known how this was going to play out for months,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments. “That just means that everybody has had an opinion, and whatever opinion that is it’s been priced into the market.”
In Asia on Friday, Japan's Nikkei 225 index edged 0.2% lower to 23,816.63 and the S&P ASX 200 in Australia lost 0.3% to 6,816.30. The Shanghai Composite index shed 0.4% to 3,004.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.3% to 27,871.35, while the Sensex in Mumbai advanced 0.1% to 41,727.67.. South Korea's Kospi picked up 0.4% to 2,204.18. Shares fell in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia.
Benchmark crude oil lost 25 cents to $60.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped 18 cents to $66.36 a barrel. The dollar declined slightly to 109.31 Japanese yen and the euro moved lower to $1.1100.