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StockBeat: Europe Can't Get Over the Brexit Hump

By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com -- Semiconductor stocks held Europe’s stock markets back Wednesday on a day when most indexes struggled to make headway after yet another parliamentary defeat for the U.K. government kept Brexit uncertainty alive and kicking.

A weak third-quarter report and outlook from bellwether Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN) after the closing bell on Tuesday pushed German chipmaker Infineon Technologies (DE:IFXGn) down 2.3%, while STMicroelectronics (PA:STM) fell 2.1% and Dutch-based ASML (AS:ASML) fell 1.1%. Other sectors were largely in a holding pattern.

The decision of U.K. lawmakers to vote down a government motion trying to ram Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s withdrawal bill through parliament means that there will be no time to formalize exit terms with the EU before the Oct. 31 deadline.

The EU is currently considering a request for an extension to the deadline and has the choice of either accepting (for which it needs unanimity among its other 27 members) or of rejecting. While the latter would lead to a disorderly Brexit on Oct. 31, it seems unlikely given the EU’s recent public statements.

What is unclear is whether the EU would grant just enough time for the bill to be scrutinized, or for the U.K. to hold a general election if that was the preferred option of the U.K. An election could either return a majority government under Johnson, or another “hung” parliament with no overall control.

Either way, the pound’s decline overnight on the back of the developments made the FTSE 100 the best performing index of the morning, gaining 0.4% by 5:15 AM ET (0915 GMT). The benchmark Euro Stoxx 600 was down 0.2% at 394.00, unable to break through a resistance level where it has stalled on no fewer than five occasions since May 2018.

Germany’s DAX index was flat, while the French CAC 40 was down 0.4% after a bigger-than-expected drop in business confidence, as reported by Insee. Support came from carmaker Peugeot (PA:PEUP), which rose 2.1% after its third-quarter results avoided a repeat of Renault’s horror show last week.

In London, meanwhile, Fresnillo (LON:FRES) fell to the bottom of the FTSE 100 after reporting a drop in third-quarter output and warning of another dip in the fourth quarter due to lower ore grades. Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) gained after reassuring that it only faced a modest hit to output at its mines in Chile from the civil unrest there in recent days.

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