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 US presidential election more than offset strong euro zone quarterly growth data.
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 were down 0.3 per cent at 0925 GMT (2:55 pm in India), tracking weakness in Asia, while US stock futures were down 1 per cent to 1.3 per cent. Gold rose, with spot prices climbing 0.3 per cent to $1,873 an ounce.
In Europe, the blue-chip EuroSTOXX 50 was down 0.7 per cent to take its weekly loss to 6.9 per cent 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 per cent for a 2.2 per cent 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 per cent and broadly in line with its US peer – it still remains down sharply on the week, facing losses of nearly 10 per cent.
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 per cent -, 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 per cent quarter-on-quarter jump – was not enough to outweigh the virus concerns.
This week has seen global coronavirus cases rising by over 5,00,000 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 US economy grew at a record annualised pace of 33.1 per cent in the third quarter.