Stock markets and the pound stumbled Friday after London and Brussels warned that a no-deal Brexit was now a strong possibility.
When closing bells rang, London stocks had fallen by a collective 0.8 percent, while Frankfurt gave up 1.4 percent and Paris was off by 0.8 percent.
Shares in New York had slipped by 0.3 percent in midday trading.
“We are starting to see the first meaningful de-risking from investors amid concern over Brexit,” remarked Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AXI.
Rabobank analyst Jane Foley added: “In the past few weeks, the market consensus has gone from being reasonably confident that the EU and the UK would agree on a skinny deal to fearing that no deal may now be the mostly likely outcome.”
The pound dropped to $1.3216, while the euro jumped to 91.65 pence.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has told the bloc’s leaders there were “low expectations” that a post-Brexit trade deal could be struck with Britain, EU sources said.
The clock was ticking down to the latest deadline, on Sunday, to make a call on prolonging negotiations or give up.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the chances of not reaching a deal were “very, very likely”, in which case Britain would trade with the EU on terms established by the World Trade Organization.
Talks continued Friday between EU and British negotiators but they were struggling to break deadlocks on issues that included fishing rights and fair trade regulations.
As financial markets floundered, ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada remarked that “it looks like traders are taking no chances now as the weekend approaches.”
The possibility that Britain will leave the EU without a deal weighed on pound sterling as investors contemplated cross-Channel trade being subject to tariffs and quotas from January 1.
The Bank of England said Friday that financial services faced “some disruption” when the deadline passes, but added that UK commercial lenders — already dealing with effects of the coronavirus pandemic — were well-prepared.
There was good news on the European stimulus front this week, however, as EU leaders resolved a dispute with Poland and Hungary that saved a 1.8-trillion-euro ($2.1-trillion) recovery plan for the 27-member bloc.
The European Central Bank has also boosted its main virus-fighting tool, an emergency bond-buying programme, by 500 billion euros ($600 billion) to 1.85 trillion euros and extended it by nine months.
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,546.75 points (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 1.4 percent at 13,114.30 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.8 percent at 5,507.55 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,486.66
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 29,906.51
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 26,652.52 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.4 percent at 26,505.87 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,347.19 (close)
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3216 from $1.3295 at 2200 GMT
Euro/pound: UP at 91.65 pence from 91.29 pence
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2112 from $1.2138
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 103.91 yen from 104.24 yen
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $46.73 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $50.11