World stock markets fell on Wednesday, as hopes faded that a Brexit deal would be wrapped by next week and a profit warning from Texas Instruments pulled down tech shares.
It was hard to pick which was weighing on sentiment more in early European trading. The pound was yanked down to 1.2850 dollar from 1.30 dollar after UK lawmakers put the brakes on the government’s Brexit plans again on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Europe’s tech sector fell 1.4 per cent. STMicroelectronics, Dialog Semiconductor and Infineon all dropped after Texas Instruments slumped 10 per cent in after-hours Wall Street trading.
Major Asian chipmakers, including Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s SK Hynix, had fallen on worries the industry was being squeezed both by a downturn in global demand and by the U.S.-China trade war.
“When there are tensions in trade and obstacles to trade, what do businesses do? They become more cautious. And they pull back,” Rafael Lizardi, Texas Instruments’ chief financial officer, said after the company’s results.
With investors seeking out safer assets again, the Japanese yen climbed to a one-week high of 108.25 per dollar and the Swiss franc gained early in Europe.
Adam Cole, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets, said Brexit was driving a “general risk-off tone”. Others pointed to the growing likelihood UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would now push for a snap election.
“Things could change very quickly today, depending on the EU response,” Cole said, referring to how long EU leaders would extend the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. But he added he didn’t see “much downside” risk for sterling now, with a no-deal Brexit off the table.
The pound has surged 4.5 per cent this month which, if it holds the gains, will be its best month since January last year.
Receding worries about a no-deal Brexit also underpinned the euro at 1.1122 dollar, just below a two-month high of 1.1180 dollar.
The dollar was subdued before a Federal Reserve policy meeting next week, where policymakers are expected to cut interest rates by 0.25 percentage point.
In commodity markets, oil prices fell after data showed U.S. crude inventories grew more than expected last week. But prices generally held firm after China signalled hopes for progress in upcoming trade talks with the United States and OPEC and its allies considered deeper cuts in production.
Brent crude LCOc1 futures fell 0.52 per cent to 59.39 dollar a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 lost 0.81per cent to 54.04 dollars per barrel.