Rising rate of virus infection douses hopes of markets’ rally - GulfToday

Rising rate of virus infection douses hopes of markets’ rally


The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday. Reuters

World stock markets declined further and oil headed for a double-digit weekly slide on Friday as jitters over a rising global COVID-19 infection rate and next week’s US presidential election more than offset strong euro zone quarterly growth data.

World stocks were down 0.3% at 0925 GMT, tracking weakness in Asia, while US stock futures were down 1% to 1.3%. Gold rose, with spot prices climbing 0.3% to $1,873 an ounce.

European stocks opened lower on Friday, putting them on track for their sharpest weekly decline since a brutal selloff in March, as a new round of coronavirus lockdowns weighed on economic growth expectations.

An underwhelming response to Wall Street’s big tech earnings overnight also hit sentiment, with Europe’s tech sector down 0.8%.

Apple suppliers AMS, Dialog Semiconductor and Infineon Technologies fell between 0.6% and 1.6% after the late launch of new 5G iPhones caused customers to put off buying new devices.

A strong central bank-fuelled bounce back from the initial pandemic slide earlier in the year has faltered this week, with concerns about an even worse second wave of infections, particularly in Europe, taking the froth off markets.

“The US election, the extent of further lockdown measures, Brexit negotiations and vaccine news all present both upside and downside risks over the coming weeks and it is understandable that investors may want to proceed with caution,” said Mark Dowding, chief investment officer at BlueBay Asset Management.

In Europe, the blue-chip EuroSTOXX 50 was down 0.7% to take its weekly loss to 6.9% and leaving it at levels last seen in late May. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan closed down 1.2% for a 2.2% weekly loss, breaking four straight weeks of gains.

“New lockdowns across Europe are being harshly repriced by markets,” Barclays equity strategist Emmanuel Cau said in a note to clients.

“With complacency going fast, this dip could end up offering another good entry point, but a lot depends on the election outcome and timing of the results.”

European government bond yields rose in response to fresh COVID restrictions across the continent, with Italian, Spanish and German 10-year debt yields all up between 1 and 2 basis points.

While Brent crude enjoyed something of a bounce approaching midday in London - up 0.5% and broadly in line with its US peer - it still remains down sharply on the week, facing losses of nearly 10%.

That in turn led to a broad sell-off of commodity linked currencies including the Russian rouble, Norwegian crown and Canadian dollar, which was facing its worst week since April.

The weak sentiment dragging Europe lower came despite a strong showing in euro zone quarterly GDP figures - up 12.7% -, one day after the European Central Bank pledged more help for the economy when it next meets in December to help counter the potential economic hit from the pandemic.

Societe Generale FX analyst Kit Juckes said that given the recent imposition of a fresh lock-down in France, the positive growth data there - an 18.2% quarter-on-quarter jump - was not enough to outweigh the virus concerns.

This week has seen global coronavirus cases rose by over 500,000 for the first time, with France and Germany prepping fresh lockdowns.

In response, analysts expect an expansion and extension of the ECB’s Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, a lower deposit facility rate, and even more generous lending terms for banks in December.

The announcement sent the euro sliding to a four-week low of $0.1648 before recovering slightly on Friday to trade at $1.1679, down around 0.4% since the start of the month.

The dollar index, meanwhile, held steady, bolstered by a solid session on Wall Street overnight after some strong tech sector earnings and data showing the U.S. economy grew at a record annualised pace of 33.1% in the third quarter.

Air France-KLM fell 4.0% after it unveiled a 1.05 billion-euro ($1.24 billion) quarterly operating loss and warned of worse to come as a resurgent coronavirus brings new travel curbs.

Among gainers, French construction materials group Saint-Gobain rose 3.9% after improved full-year earnings forecast.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 0.6% by 0814 GMT, on course for a more than 6% weekly loss in what could be its worst such decline since an 18% plunge in mid-March.

Hong Kong stocks fell on Friday, tracking other Asian markets’ declines on worries over next week’s U.S. presidential election and a shaky global economic outlook, but strength in tech companies led to monthly gains.

 At the close of trade, the Hang Seng index was down 1.95% at 24,107.42. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index fell 1.96% to 9,760.24.

 The sub-index of the Hang Seng tracking energy shares dipped 1.3%, while the IT sector dipped 2.29%, the financial sector ended 2.33% lower and the property sector dipped 0.56%.

 For the month, HSI added 2.8%, while HSCE climbed 3.9%.

 Record numbers of coronavirus cases worldwide and the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election remained the major focus for investors. On Wednesday, global coronavirus cases rose by more than 500,000 for the first time, with France and Germany prepping fresh lockdowns.


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