Markets waver before BoE as investors mull Trump impeachment

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts while speaking during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S., December 18, 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts while speaking during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S., December 18, 2019.
Image: REUTERS / Leah Millis

European stock markets wavered on Thursday, after earlier losses in Asia, as dealers awaited a UK interest rate call and mulled the impeachment of US President Donald Trump.

Sentiment was subdued as dealers also began to wind down ahead of the Christmas break and as the rally fuelled by the China-US trade pact lost steam.

"Markets are quiet this morning, with the lull in European equities ahead of the Bank of England's meeting," said IG analyst Chris Beauchamp.

The BoE will reveal at 1200 GMT its first interest rate call since Johnson's landslide victory, with Brexit looming at the end of next month.

The bank is expected to keep its key lending rate at 0.75 percent, as speculation also swirls over an imminent appointment of the successor to departing Governor Mark Carney.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 shares index also edged upwards as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his plans for government after last week's election triumph, with a focus on delivering Brexit and supporting the health service.

'Entertaining distraction'

Investors meanwhile mulled news that the House of Representatives has voted to impeach Donald Trump, but he is unlikely to be removed from office by the Republican-held senate.

"The impeachment proceedings provide an entertaining distraction, although given the result is such a foregone conclusion the market impact should be fairly limited," added Beauchamp.

"The president, it seems, could offer to sell Alaska back to Russia and the Republican party might still not vote to impeach him."

Trump was impeached Wednesday over a telephone conversation where he pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his potential White House challenger in 2020, the veteran Democrat Joe Biden.

By a 230 to 197 vote in the Democratic-majority House, the 45th US president became just the third occupant of the White House in American history to be impeached.

Democrats said they had "no choice" but to formally charge the 73-year-old Republican, whose impeachment along stark party lines places an indelible stain on his record while driving a spike ever deeper into the US political divide.

With few catalysts to drive business, investors were meanwhile taking it easy after a rollercoaster year that has seen equities swing back and forth mostly by trade rows between the US and China as well as other major allies, while Brexit has also played a key role.

The hope is that now Washington and China have reached a partial tariffs agreement -- and British politics is on a more even keel after last week's decisive win for Johnson -- markets can enjoy a healthy 2020.

The British pound remained depressed, having given up its post-election gains after Johnson said he would pass a law preventing an extension to the next phase of Brexit, reviving the chances of a no-deal divorce at the end of next year of an EU trade deal is not struck.

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