MORNING BID EUROPE-The Boris Factor

by Reuters
Monday, 22 February 2016 08:11 GMT

* A look at the day ahead from European Economics and Politics Editor Mark John and EMEA Markets Editor Mike Dolan. The views expressed are their own.

LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - In favour of Britain remaining in the EU are Prime Minister David Cameron, most of his cabinet, the main Labour opposition, Scotland's largest party, much of big business and the City of London, Britain's EU partners and foreign leaders starting with Barack Obama. Against are six rebel ministers, the UKIP party, the local eurosceptic press and now the mayor of London. Boris Johnson promised to come off the fence on Europe "with deafening eclat" and so he did yesterday by confirming he would campaign for Britain to leave the bloc in the June 23 referendum. As a result, sterling fell in overnight Asian trade and bookmakers upped the odds of "Brexit" to 33 percent from 29 percent before. It remains to be seen whether or not Johnson can deploy his comedy-based charisma to sway voters on what for many will be the most important issue they will ever have to go to the ballot on. But he has already proven his skill in weaving an entertaining anti-EU narrative that will appeal to many Brits' gut aversion to Brussels and the "remain" campaign will have to work out how best to counter that. Cameron has his first opportunity to seize back the initiative when he presents his referendum proposal to Parliament around 1530 this afternoon.

MARKETS AT 0745 GMT

World stock markets were firmer Monday, with a heavy week of European earnings ahead and a G20 finance chiefs meeting looming Friday. Sterling was the early centre of attention, weakening slightly against the dollar after British PM Cameron announced that June 23 would be the date of the Brexit referendum. With cabinet members allowed to declare sides, London major Boris Johnson's support for an EU exit was seen as a boost for the camp pushing to leave the bloc. The pound lost about two cents against the dollar to its lowest level in about three weeks, though it weakened much less against the euro and the FTSE100 looked little affected by the weekend events. Sterling implied volatility levels were near 4-month highs as a nervy campaign will now focus on poll to poll as bookie's odds on an exit narrow. UK stocks were marked almost 1 pct higher in line with other European markets. HSBC earnings were slightly below forecast, but it did lift its dividend. Asia bourses were firmer too, despite poor Japanese business sentiment data. Tokyo's Nikkei was up about 1 percent on a weaker yen. Shanghai was up more than 2 percent. Brent oil hovered above $33. The dollar index and Treasury yields were a touch higher after surprisingly firm US core inflation numbers Friday.

Upcoming events/data/ themes for market reports on Monday:

- Global flash PMIs for February

- Russian markets closed for holiday

- European corp events: HSBC, Bank of Ireland, Associated British Foods, BHP Billiton

- Italy Jan final inflation

- Belgium OLO auction

- Israel interest rate decision

- Mexico Dec retail sales (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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