Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Friday, March 15:

1. Pound steady as U.K. prepares for 3rd Brexit vote

The pound was little changed against the dollar on Friday amid news that the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to ask the British parliament to vote on her twice-defeated deal to leave the European Union for a third time next Wednesday.

May will attempt to convince die-hard Brexiteers in her own party that – since there is no majority in parliament for leaving without a transitional deal – the deal she penned with the EU is the only other option.

May’s government narrowly held on to control of the Brexit process during Thursday’s round of votes. Most analysts believe that her deal – or a rough version of it – is the most likely outcome, even if it comes with a slight delay.

A no-deal “hard” Brexit is still the legal default option, as the EU has said that it will accept no further haggling. That makes the deal May is attempting to pass through Parliament a “take it or leave it” choice.

Relief that British politicians showed enough desire to avoid leaving the EU with no deal has sent the pound up more than 1% against the euro this week and more than 2% against the dollar.

2. Facebook shares drop 2% as top executives hit the exit

Two top executives are leaving Facebook, just days after the social media giant announced it plans to focus in future on encrypted messaging.

The leadership shakeup comes as it faces government investigations over how it has handled user data.

Chris Cox, the company’s chief product officer who has been at the company since 2005, told Facebook he was leaving on Monday.

Cox would have overseen Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to merge Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram into one as it moves to focus on keeping its services better encrypted.

“As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network … This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through,” Cox said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp Vice President Chris Daniels is also departing, and will be replaced by Will Cathcart.

Shares in Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) were down around 2% in premarket trading on Friday.

3. Markets expect U.S. consumers mood to brighten

On the data front Friday, markets will focus on the University of Michigan’s preliminary reading of consumer sentiment at 10:00 AM ET (14:00 GMT).

Economists expect the index to climb to 95.3, recovering further from what had been its lowest level since October 2016 at the beginning of the year when consumers were worried over the impact of the government shutdown.

Also on the economic calendar Friday, investors will watch readings on the state of manufacturing in the New York area, industrial production across the country and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, known as JOLTs.

4. News of U.S.-China trade progress boost stocks

Adding to developments surrounding Brexit, news of further trade talks between the U.S. and China boosted sentiment on Friday.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by telephone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with the two sides making further substantive progress on trade talks, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Mnuchin cautioned that the leaders of the two countries were unlikely to hold a summit to sign off on an agreement until at least April, dashing hopes for a deal before the end of the month.

U.S. futures also pointed to a higher open on Friday. At 5:44 AM ET (9:44 GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures was up 79 points, or 0.3%, S&P 500 futures had advanced 8 points, or 0.3%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures traded up 31 points, or 0.4%.

Read more: Netflix’s Powerful 2019 Rally Risks Being Derailed As Competition Heats Up – Haris Anwar

Elsewhere, European stocks shared in the cheer, with the pan-European Stoxx 600hitting 5-month highs, on track for its biggest weekly gain in a month.

Earlier, Asian stocks topped the gain in global equities with China’s Shanghai Composite closing 1% higher and Japan’s Nikkei 225 ending up 0.8%.

5. Oil hits fresh 2019 high as IEA forecasts tighter market

Oil pressed higher on Friday, marking fresh highs for the year, as the International Energy Agency forecast stronger demand for the commodity and suggested that the market could enter a deficit as soon as the second quarter of this year.

According to the agency, there could be a modest surplus in the first quarter, but expects a deficit of around 500,000 barrels a day in the following three months.

“At the same time, (OPEC) production cuts have increased the spare capacity cushion. This is especially important now as economic sentiment is becoming more pessimistic and the global economy could be entering a vulnerable period,” the IEA added.

U.S. crude oil futures hit a new four-month high of $58.95 overnight and kept most of those gains to stand at $58.77 by 5:44 AM ET (9:44 GMT), while Brent oil traded up 22 cents, or 0.33%, to $67.45.



Kevin White

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