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Markets welcome Scottish vote

September 19, 2014

The British pound has risen after Scotland's decision to reject independence from the United Kingdom. European shares surged higher, buoyed by gains on the UK stock market.

A Scottish man
Image: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong

Scottish voters rejected independence in a historic referendum that threatened to rip the United Kingdom apart and cause turmoil in financial markets.

Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 index rose by 0.3 percent, closing the day Friday with Scottish-based stocks among the top performers. Earlier it climbed by as much as 0.8 percent.

Analysts view the vote in favor of the 307-year-old union as positive for investors. Jörg Krämer, Chief Economists of Commerzbank, said investors were spared huge uncertainty about the future of the British economy.

"There would have been years of discussions about the currency as well as the distribution of [Britain's] sovereign debt and oil revenues," he told the news agency Reuters.

Lenders with strong exposure to Scotland, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, were up 2.5 percent to 4.2 percent. Asset managers Schroders, St. James' Place and Aberdeen Asset Management rose between 1.3 percent and 4.4 percent.

Standard Life Plc shot up to its highest price since May 2013. John Wood Group, one of the stocks deemed to be vulnerable in the case of secession, rose by 2.3 percent.

A basket of top Scotland-based stocks on the broader FTSE 350 index also traded higher, with its dozen or so components up between 0.3 and 4.2 percent.

"The markets were pricing in a no vote... but now that we've got confirmation of that it's going to propel stocks on from here," Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor, told the news agency Reuters.

Shares of firms with significant exposure to Britain's North Sea oil industry also rose, with North Sea rig operators Petrofac and Enquest up 3.4 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

The pound also surged by 1 percent overnight to as high as 1.65 against the US dollar, an improvement on the 10-month low of 1.60 two weeks ago.

"There's a bit of a relief rally, now that the Scottish vote is over," Toby Campbell-Gray, head of trading at Tavira Securities told Reuters.

Spain's IBEX outperformed with a 1.3 percent rise, helped by a fall in Spanish 10-year government bond yields. Markets viewed Scotland's "No" vote in its independence referendum as having reduced prospects of a stronger push for a breakaway in Catalonia.

Not everyone benefitted from the vote, though: Commodity producers dropped, and Bloomberg Commodity Index fell to its lowest level since July 2009. Randgold Resources dipped by 1.7 percent.

uhe/rs (Reuters, AP)