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The virus is back

Three issues are dominating the markets this morning: the return of China’s coronavirus, the European Central Bank meeting and the approval of the final Brexit bill.

FTSE stocks with exposure to Chinese markets such as miners, particularly the heavy-volume trade such as Glencore, hotel chains and airlines and HSBC bank are all dropping now that the spread of the coronavirus seems to have intensified. Even miner Anglo-American which reported a 4% increase in output dropped amid the virus news flow. China has quarantined Wuhan where the virus seems to have originated, preventing any transport in and out of the city of 11 million. The biggest concern remains that the virus will spread faster than usual because of the start of the Chinese New Year festivities, which sees large swathes of population travel across the country over a week-long period.

Is the mood about to change at the ECB?

When the ECB meets under the helm of Christine Lagarde later today it is not expected to change current interest rates but recent flickers of hope in the European economy could cause the bank to revise its narrative towards a more neutral rate stance rather than a dovish one. The euro is trading unconvincingly higher against the pound ahead of the meeting and marginally weaker against the dollar, reflecting investors' lack of conviction about a significant change ahead.

Boris’ “no children” bill passes

Parliament has approved the final version of the Brexit bill which was held up in the Lords earlier this week because it had cut out Britain’s commitment to take in the children of immigrants but now the bill just needs Her Majesty’s approval before it becomes final and guarantees Britain’s departure from Europe at the end of next week. The pound is a touch weaker against the dollar but it is holding firm above the $1.31 line.


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