World stocks take fresh dip as COVID infection rate weighs

LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks fell 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 U.S. presidential election more than offset strong euro zone quarterly growth data.

FILE PHOTO: Men wearing protective face masks chat in front of a screen displaying Nikkei share average and world stock indexes outside a brokerage, in Tokyo, Japan October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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.

World stocks .MIWD00000PUS were down 0.2% at 1103 GMT, tracking weakness in Asia, while U.S. stock futures ESc1NQc1 were down 0.8% to 1%, pointing to a lower open on Wall Street. Gold rose, with spot prices climbing 0.6% to $1,878 an ounce.

In Europe, the blue-chip EuroSTOXX 50 .STOXX50E recovered early losses to trade flat after strong regional growth numbers, but is on track for a weekly loss of 6.7% and remains around levels last seen in late May.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS 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 slightly in response to fresh COVID restrictions across the continent, with Italian, Spanish and German 10-year debt yields all up around 1 basis point.

Brent crude LCOc1 gave up intra-morning gains to trade down 0.2%, broadly in line with its U.S. peer CLc1, facing weekly losses of around 10%.

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

The slight recovery in European stock markets followed a strong euro zone quarterly GDP print – 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 rise by over 500,000 for the first time, with France and Germany preparing 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.

This saw the euro EUR= slide to a four-week low of $0.1648 before recovering slightly on Friday to trade at $1.1672, down around 0.4% since the start of the month.

The dollar index =USD, 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.

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