The eleventh hour …
With Brexit still unresolved and the clock counting down to the 29 March deadline, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a second “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal will be held today. If the Government fails to win the meaningful vote, it will table a motion asking MPs if they support leaving the EU with “no deal”. If MPs reject this motion, the Government will seek to extend the Brexit deadline beyond 29 March, but no later than the end of June. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister stressed: “An extension cannot take “no deal” off the table. The only way to do that is to revoke Article 50, which I shall not do, or agree a deal”. Public sentiment was further rattled during February by a raft of resignations from the Conservative and Labour parties, which threw both the Government and the Opposition into disarray. The FTSE 100 Index rose by 1.5% over the month.
”An extension cannot take “no deal” off the table” (PM Theresa May)
The US announced it would delay its planned tariff increases on Chinese goods – which was due to take effect on 1 March – although the two countries had failed to reach a trade agreement during their meetings in February. Meanwhile, after Congress rebuffed President Donald Trump’s demand for funds for a US/Mexico border wall, the President declared a national emergency in a bid to circumvent Congress by using military funds. The House of Representatives subsequently voted to overturn his controversial declaration, which will have to face a vote in the Senate. The US economy grew at an annualised rate of 2.6% during the fourth quarter of 2018, having expanded by 3.4% in the third quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average Index rose by 3.7% over February.
Consumer confidence in France rebounded in February to its highest level since before the “gilets jaunes” protests began. Sentiment rose as President Macron’s stimulus measures began to take effect; these policies were expedited in response to the damaging protests. Concerns about unemployment eased to pre-protest levels, although consumers remain cautious about their scope to make major purchases. The benchmark CAC 40 Index rose by 5% during the month.
Japan’s economy expanded at an annualised rate of 1.4% during the final three months of 2018, having shrunk by 2.6% in the previous quarter following a series of natural disasters. During February, the Nikkei 225 Index rose by 2.9%.