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The Friday Market Minute

  • Global stocks edge higher following last night's tech-lead rally on Wall Street, although gains were capped by concerns for the strength of the world economy.
  • US Treasury Department sanctions on two Chinese shipping firms accused of helping North Korea evade restrictions on its nuclear weapons program rattle nerves ahead of next week's trade talks.
  • European stocks re-test late-September highs as the single currency eases to 1.1370, but U.K. stocks slide following yet another twist in Britain's Brexit saga.
  • U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May given two-week reprieve to win support for her twice defeated Brexit deal, raising the stakes of Britain's exit even higher heading into April.
  • Global oil prices hold near four months highs, with U.S. crude at $60 per barrel, ahead of today's rig count data from Baker Hughes.
  • U.S. equity futures suggest a flat open on Wall Street ahead of manufacturing PMI data at 9:45 am Eastern Time and existing home sales figures at 10:00 Eastern Time.

Market Snapshot

Global stocks edged higher Friday, with investors riding yesterday's tech-lead gains on Wall Street and shrugging off, for the moment at least, concerns linked to slower economic growth, political uncertainty in Europe and flagging U.S.-China trade talks.

Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) 3.7% rise yesterday, which helped lift both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P 500 benchmarks into solid end-of-session gains, was also a boon for tech stocks and the Nasdaq, which built gains from a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit report from Micron Technology (MU - Get Report) and near record highs for the Philadelphia Semiconductor index, a tech sector benchmark. 

The positive sentiment washed over into the Asia trading session, lifting stocks around the region higher, although gains were capped by ongoing concerns over the strength of the global economy and tensions linked to a U.S. Treasury Department move to sanction two Chinese shipping companies for allegedly helping North Korea evade prohibitions on it atomic weapons program.

"The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related U.N. Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome," Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

With Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer set to travel to Beijing next week in order to move U.S.-China trade talks forward, the decision to sanction two Chinese firms could complicate negotiations that, according to multiple media reports, are starting to get bogged down by resistance from China on monitoring.

Asia's region-wide MSCI benchmark added 0.18% heading into the final hours of trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 closed out the week with a modest 0.1% advance as yen strengthened to 110.76 against the U.S. dollar in a largely defensive session.

U.S. equity futures suggested modest opening bell gains for the three benchmarks, with Dow contracts indicating a 1 point rise, S&P 500 futures guiding to a 2.1 point bump and those linked to the tech-focused Nasdaq suggesting a 13 point advance.

European stocks were higher at the open, as well, with the Stoxx 600 rising 0.15% in Frankfurt as the euro slipped to 1.1385 against the greenback. Britian's FTSE 100 was marked 0.15% lower at the opening bell in London as the pound held at 1.3144 against the U.S. dollar amid the latest twist in Britain's three-year Brexit saga.

Theresa May was handed a two-week reprieve last night after EU leaders game the embattled Prime Minister until April 12 to secure Parliamentary support for her twice-defeated deal.

If she fails again, which political experts say is likely, Britain will face several options, including a long Brexit delay and possible fresh national elections or a second referendum. If she wins, Britain will have until May 22 to permanently leave the bloc.

Global oil prices were little-changed in early European trading, with markets getting support from a weaker U.S. dollar, ongoing OPEC production cuts and two weeks of declines in domestic crude inventories, all of which have combined to keep both WTI and Brent futures contracts near the highest in four months.

Brent crude contracts for May delivery, the global benchmark for oil prices, were marked 1 cent lower from their Thursday close and changing hands at $67.85 per barrel in early European dealing while WTI contracts for the same month, which are more tightly linked to U.S. gasoline prices, were flat to yesterday's closing price at $59.97 per barrel.