NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Global stock markets drifted lower on Thursday as an increase in new coronavirus cases in some U.S. states and China crushed hopes of a swift economic comeback from the pandemic, underpinning demand for safe-haven currencies such as the dollar and Japanese yen.
Traders wear masks as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
The daily count of infections hit a new milestone in California and Texas, while around 400 workers tested positive for the virus at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany, prompting the closure of local schools.
A Chinese medical expert, meanwhile, said Beijing has brought its recent outbreak under control.
U.S. Treasury yields fell and crude oil rose as worries about fuel demand following the rising coronavirus cases were offset by U.S. government data showing lower inventories of gasoline and distillates, indicating higher demand.
Justin Onuekwusi, portfolio manager at Legal & General Investment Management, said the flare-ups in Germany and China and the rise in infection rates in some U.S. states were cause for concern.
“It’s going to be a theme where we see economies having to do mini-lockdowns and isolation measures in order to contain the virus. The question is how much it affects markets,” he said.
U.S. data that suggested a declining pace of Americans filing for unemployment benefits has stalled amid a second wave of layoffs reminded investors the economy faces a long and difficult recovery from the COVID-19 recession.
Employers hired a record 2.5 million workers in May as businesses reopened, an unexpected bright spot that investors cheered last week. But at least 29 million people are collecting unemployment checks, a sign of the tough road ahead.
“The restarting of the economy is going to be slow, it’s going to be uneven and initial jobless claims today reflect that,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco.
As the economy reopens and economic activity increases, infection rates are rising, which Hooper said raises the question: What happens if that continues? Many states will not impose lockdowns to allow economic activity to continue, she said.
“You could have a situation where infections continue to rise, but it doesn’t necessarily have the impact on economic activity that it did in March and April,” Hooper said.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.05%, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.84%. Emerging market stocks bucked the trend, rising 0.13%.
Wall Street was mostly lower but the Nasdaq and S&P 500 pulled slightly ahead.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 1.03 points, or -0%, to 26,118.58, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 3.13 points, or 0.10%, to 3,116.62 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 35.04 points, or 0.35%, to 9,945.57.
CHINESE BRIGHT SPOT
China’s blue-chip CSI300 shares .CSI300 were a bright spot, adding 0.7%, helped by reassurances from its central bank governor that the world’s second-largest economy would maintain ample financial liquidity in the second half of 2020 as the economy recovers.
Euro zone bonds hardly budged, even as the European Central Bank announced record demand for its new round of cheap loans, with the strong take-up expected to support the bond market.
Italian yields slipped slightly, with 10-year yields falling to a new low since late March of 1.33%. They were last down 3.5 basis points at 1.34%. IT10YT=RR
British government bond yields touched their highest since June 10 after the Bank of England increased its bond-buying program by another 100 billion pounds ($125 billion) to help revive the economy, but sharply slowed the pace of its purchases. [L8N2DV2K2]
In currency markets, the yen touched a six-day high of 106.70 in Asian trading and was last neutral at 107 JPY=EBS.
The Norwegian crown was the biggest mover among major currencies, after Norway’s central bank said the country’s economic prospects had improved more than expected in recent weeks and its key policy interest rate would be kept unchanged.
The crown was up 0.6% versus the dollar at 9.4560 NOK=D3.
The dollar index =USD rose 0.241%, with the euro EUR= down 0.17% to $1.1224. The yen strengthened 0.20% versus the greenback at 106.79 per dollar.
Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR fell 3.3 basis points to yield 0.7019%.
U.S. crude CLc1 rose 1.24% to $38.43 per barrel and Brent LCOc1 was at $41.20, up 1.2% on the day.
In commodity markets, spot gold XAU= dropped 0.3% to $1,720.77 an ounce. [/GOL]
Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler