TOKYO- Asian stocks were steady in a cautious start to the week, while the British pound fell following a delay to a crucial vote on Britain’s divorce from the European Union.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were flat, with Australian shares off down 0.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.13 percent.
The Brexit maelstrom, worries over slowing global growth and international trade frictions have kept investors on edge over recent months. Oil futures fell as lingering economic growth concerns and excess supplies of crude prompted speculators to trim their long positions.
The pound slipped from a five-month high against the dollar and the euro after the British parliament forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek a delay to an Oct. 31 deadline for Britain’s departure from the bloc.
The vote for an extension dealt a blow to optimism that a deal agreed last week would ensure Brexit happens with little economic disruption.
While the British government insisted Brexit will take place on Oct. 31, uncertainty over whether the EU will agree a delay and how British lawmakers will respond could weigh on sentiment over the week.
“There is some uncertainty about Brexit, but it may not rattle investors too much because this is not an outright rejection of the deal,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.
“Trading volumes are around 40 percent of what they would normally be, which shows there’s not a lot of conviction in the market.”
The pound fell 0.7 percent to $1.2908 and was off about 0.4 percent to 86.50 per euro.
US stock futures nudged 0.06 percent higher in Asia as investors brace for high-profile earnings this week from Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com and others.
The S&P 500 fell 0.4 percent on Friday partly due to worries about fallout from the US-China trade war.
A 15-month long trade war between the United States and China has shown few signs of a durable resolution being reached despite several rounds of talks. – Reuters