Catalan vote batters Spanish stocks, euro dips
By Ritvik Carvalho
LONDON, Dec 22 (Reuters) — Spanish stocks and the euro fell while Spanish government bond yields hit one-month highs on Friday, after Catalan separatists won a regional election, likely prolonging political tensions that may hurt the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.
The IBEX fell as much as 1.2 percent, while financial stocks were the biggest drag on stock indices across the region, with the euro zone banks index falling nearly 1 percent.
The pan-European STOXX index dipped only 0.1 percent, while Spanish stocks were among the heaviest fallers, confirming analyst expectations that any shake-out from the Catalonia vote would be mostly confined to Spain.
Spanish stocks were Europe’s best-performing benchmark for much of the year, before October’s independence referendum turmoil sent the IBEX tumbling. It was last 9 percent down from its May peak.
The Spanish result is also a setback for the European Union, which must now brace for more secessionist noise as it grapples with the disruption of Brexit and simmering east European discontent.
Germany’s DAX edged down 0.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE100 hit a fresh record high in holiday-shortened trade.
Wall Street futures indicated a positive open.
Having fallen as low as $1.1817 on preliminary results from regional votes in Catalonia, the euro trimmed its losses and was last at $1.1853, down 0.2 percent on the day.
«I very much doubt that these losses will turn out to be sustainable,» said Commerzbank currency strategist Ulrich Leuchtmann, in Frankfurt.
«Yes, the separatists defended their majority in the regional parliament, so that the tensions between Madrid and Barcelona are likely to continue. But the market kept its cool when the conflict last escalated and the euro remained relatively unaffected, and so it would come as a big surprise to me if that were to change now,» he added.
Spain’s 10-year borrowing costs rose 5 basis points to a one-month high of 1.52 percent in early trades, before settling back at 1.49 percent.
The premium investors demand for holding Spanish bonds over top-rated German peers widened 6 bps to around 111 bps at one stage.
ASIAN STOCKS RISE
The MSCI index of world stocks was flat.
Asia-Pacific equities took their cues from Wall Street, where all three main indexes posted gains on strength in bank and energy stocks and news the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at its fastest pace in more than two years.
Supporting U.S. stocks this week, and by extension global equities, was the passage through Congress of a $1.5 trillion tax-cutting bill.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.5 percent higher.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.3 percent and Shanghai dipped 0.1 percent.
Australian stocks miner advanced 0.15 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI gained 0.45 percent and Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.15 percent.
The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of peers, was up 0.1 percent.
Unrevised third-quarter growth numbers from Britain had little impact on the pound, which reversed small losses against the dollar to trade flat on the day.
Bitcoin fell as much as 14.7 percent to below $14,000 on the Bitstamp exchange on Friday, last trading at $13,940.
The cryptocurrency, which was at about $1,000 at the start of the year, had climbed to a record high of $19,666 on Sunday.
In commodities, U.S. crude futures slipped 0.5 percent to $58.07 per barrel, an earlier rise losing steam as traders sold to adjust positions ahead of the year-end.
The contracts had reached a nine-day peak of $58.38 overnight as OPEC started working on plans for an exit strategy from its deal to cut crude supplies, fuelling hopes it would not end supply cuts abruptly.
Brent was down 0.3 percent at $64.68 a barrel after closing on Thursday at $64.90 a barrel, its highest since June 2015.
The broader rise in commodities this week — copper on the London Metal Exchange reached a two-month high on Thursday — lifted the Australian dollar to $0.7721, its highest since Nov. 2.
For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see website
(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Helen Reid in LONDON and Asia markets team; Editing by Keith Weir and Hugh Lawson)