Thousands of delegates from around China are in Beijing for the National People’s Congress, which has unveiled hugs tax cuts and other measures to boost the stuttering economy (WANG ZHAO)

London (AFP) – London’s stock market rose as the pound fell Tuesday, with investors reacting to Brexit-facing data and Bank of England contingency measures ahead of fresh divorce-deal talks in Brussels.

Around 1130 GMT, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent, helped by a drop in the pound that lifted share prices of multinationals listed on the benchmark index.

Eurozone indices steadied, while most Asian stocks closed lower.

The pound retreated as hiring by companies dropped at the fastest pace in seven years amid Brexit uncertainty, though other data showed output in Britain’s key services sector increased slightly in February.

The Markit/CIPS services survey rebounded to 51.3 in February from a 29-month low of 50.1 in January.

The data “suggests that at least some of the concern about Brexit’s impact on the economy has been overdone”, noted research group Capital Economics in a client note.

“However, worries about future demand now appear to be seeping into hiring decisions, which be weighing on employment growth.”

Meanwhile, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met Britain’s negotiating team as both sides seek a breakthrough with just weeks to go before this month’s looming divorce deadline.

The Bank of England warned that Europe’s financial system faced “potential risks” to its stability from a no-deal Brexit, as it extended weekly lending facilities to include euros.

The BoE warned that “some disruption to cross-border services is possible and, in the absence of other actions by EU authorities, some potential risks to financial stability remain.

“Although these would primarily affect EU households and businesses, they could also be expected to spill back to the UK in ways that cannot be fully anticipated and mitigated,” the central bank added in a statement.

– US-China trade hope –

Earlier Tuesday, most Asian stock markets retreated as investors awaited fresh developments in the China-US trade talks, though Shanghai closed sharply higher as China unveiled massive tax cuts to support the stuttering economy.

Wall Street provided a negative lead on Monday as optimism that the world’s top two economies were heading for a tariffs deal was replaced by a need for clarity on any agreement.

Shares have enjoyed a blockbuster start to the year, but “trade optimism could only take the stock market so far”, said Oanda senior market analyst Alfonso Esparza.

“High-level talks between the two largest economies have been ongoing and although they appear close to bearing fruit, the fact remains that the optimism has already been priced in,” he added.

“Details on the agreement will be needed to unlock gains.”

Tokyo ended 0.4 percent lower, Sydney eased 0.3 percent, Singapore and Seoul were each 0.5 percent off and Taipei dropped 0.4 percent. Manila and Bangkok were also down.

But Shanghai jumped 0.9 percent while Hong Kong inched up after China announced hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax cuts for firms to stimulate the economy.

Beijing will also increase spending, with the targeted fiscal deficit set to increase to 2.8 percent of GDP, from 2.6 percent last year, while the National People’s Congress is expected to pass laws next week regulating foreign investment in a move that could help ease US trade tensions.

However, it did reveal a target of 6.0-6.5 percent growth for this year — below the last year’s 6.6 percent, the slowest for three decades — as Chinese leaders struggle to address a mounting debt crisis as well as the trade row.

– Key figures around 1130 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,151.49 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 11,578.61

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 5,277.36

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,316.92

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 21,726.28 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: FLAT at 28,961.60 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 3,054.25 (close)

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.8 percent at 25,819.65 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3158 from $1.3179 at 2140 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.10 pence from 86.05 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1330 from $1.1342

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.93 yen from 111.72 yen

Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 17 cents at $65.50 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 11 cents at $56.48

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