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Asia: Markets retreat from rally, pound stable after Brexit drop

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Asian markets retreated on Wednesday after two days of gains but the pound enjoyed some stability after the previous day's sharp losses sparked by Theresa May's Brexit deal being tossed out by MPs.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets retreated on Wednesday after two days of gains but the pound enjoyed some stability after the previous day's sharp losses sparked by Theresa May's Brexit deal being tossed out by MPs.

Sterling saw wild fluctuations on Tuesday as it hit a near two-year high on news the prime minister had won a last-minute revision to her agreement with the EU, then tanked to a three-week low as it was rejected later in the day at Westminster.

The decision means lawmakers will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU on March 29 without an economic agreement - which is expected to fail - then Thursday on whether to extend the deadline.

However, there remains a lot of uncertainty, with some observers suggesting the latest developments put the country a step closer to another referendum, while others say it could make a no-deal exit more likely.

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Market voices on:

"My tuppence is that parliament has, in their own mind, seized control of the Brexit process and will duly ask and likely get an extension to the 29 March exit date," said Oanda senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.

"The breathing space granted will be used by whomever to renegotiate a more palatable Brexit deal for the UK. Except nobody has asked the Europeans yet. A short-term gain may yet belie long-term pain."

The news from London added to selling pressure on Asian equity markets, which had enjoyed a bounce Monday and Tuesday from last week's battering, with investors still on edge over the state of the global economy.

Tokyo ended the morning 1.4 per cent lower, while Shanghai fell 0.7 per cent, Hong Kong lost 0.5 per cent and Sydney shed 0.6 per cent.

Seoul fell 0.9 per cent, Singapore was off 0.7 per cent and Wellington retreated 0.3 per cent with Manila and Jakarta also taking a hit.

With very little news coming out of Beijing and Washington regarding the trade talks, investors are moving to the sidelines until there is something concrete to buy on.

"Until the world's two largest economies conclude an agreement... it will be difficult to gauge a clearer picture of the global economy in 2019," added Mr Halley.

"The outcome of the trade talks - and perhaps the US-eurozone will likely follow - will dictate whether we will gently roll down the slope or off the edge of the cliff."

AFP