Sterling rises on Brexit bets; stocks dip, oil falls

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A tech-sector selloff weighed on Wall Street and on stocks globally on Wednesday, while the British pound touched a two-month high versus the U.S. dollar as Britain and the European Union moved closer to a Brexit deal.

Traders bailed out of technology shares and bought bank stocks, that rose sharply a day after the nominee to head the Federal Reserve said some regulations could be scaled back, while he acknowledged interest rates could gradually continue to rise.

“We are certainly seeing a change in leadership at least for today in that we are taking profits from technology and redistributing those profits to areas that will benefit from lower taxes, less regulation, higher interest rates and kind of later stages of the economic cycle,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

The U.S. Senate could vote on a tax overhaul plan as early as Thursday. The Republican plan, expected to cut many corporations’ taxes, is seen by some analysts as a boon for U.S. stocks.

Despite the day’s 2.6 percent selloff, the S&P 500 tech sector is up over 35 percent in 2017, by far the best performing of the 11 S&P industry sectors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 103.97 points, or 0.44 percent, to 23,940.68, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.97 points, or 0.04 percent, to 2,626.07 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 87.97 points, or 1.27 percent, to 6,824.39.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.45 percent.

Traders in Asian stocks were cautious over the latest missile test by North Korea and concerns at recent softness in Chinese shares.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS closed 0.25 percent lower.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 rose 0.25 percent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.07 percent after touching a record intraday high.

Britain’s FTSE fell, lagging a broad-based rebound in European shares as the stronger sterling hurt the internationally-exposed companies in the index.

Sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.3411, up 0.56 percent on the day.

Even as the British currency hit a two-month high some investors were wary of rushing in to buy the pound until more details emerged from a EU summit on Dec 14-15.

“There is a lot of water that has to flow under this particular bridge before we see investors becoming optimistic about the pound in their portfolios,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of G10 FX strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.

The dollar index .DXY fell 0.02 percent, with the euro EUR= up 0.09 percent to $1.185.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.39 percent versus the greenback at 111.92 per dollar.

Bitcoin rose over $11,000 to hit a record high for the sixth day in a row after gaining more than $1,000 in just 12 hours, stoking concerns that a rapidly swelling bubble could be set to burst.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

The cryptocurrency had a session high of $11,395 and a low of $9,250 and was last at $9,781.09.

Oil futures’ prices fell in a volatile session on conflicting statements from oil ministers a day ahead of OPEC’s meeting in Vienna, as members debate the path for an extension of the group’s agreement to cap supplies.

U.S. crude CLc1 fell 0.93 percent to $57.45 per barrel and Brent LCOc1 was last at $63.40, down 0.33 percent on the day.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes US10YT=RR last fell 14/32 in price to yield 2.3846 percent, from 2.337 percent late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond US30YT=RR last fell 38/32 in price to yield 2.8237 percent, from 2.765 percent late on Tuesday.

Spot gold XAU= dropped 0.8 percent to $1,283.95 an ounce. U.S. gold futures GCcv1 fell 0.89 percent to $1,283.40 an ounce.

Copper CMCU3 lost 0.75 percent to $6,754.00 a tonne.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed, Lewis Krauskopf and David Gaffen; Editing by Andrew Hay and Nick Zieminski