European and US stocks sag despite Asia gains

Investors are torn between optimism over the outlook thanks to central bank largesse, and concerns about the impact of the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant (AFP/Armando BABANI)
·3 min read

European and US equities mostly slid Tuesday on worries over the rise in coronavirus cases, while Tokyo's Nikkei rallied on hopes for fresh stimulus measures.

London stocks ended the day 0.5 percent lower, while Frankfurt fell 0.6 percent and Paris shed 0.3 percent.

"After yesterday's positive start, European markets have had an altogether softer tone on fairly light volume today," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Hewson cited German ZEW investor expectations for September which fell more than expected, and noted that traders are turning their attention to a European Central Bank meeting later this week.

"There's not been a great deal to get excited about today, with this week's ECB rate meeting looming large, and some chatter the central bank might start to look at discussing the tapering of its bond buying program when it meets on Thursday," he added.

Worries about the US economy, meanwhile, have been sharpened by Friday's lackuster jobs data.

"There could be a carry over of concern because of the weakness regarding Friday's employment data," said CFRA Research's Sam Stovall.

A Goldman Sachs note trimmed the forecast for third-quarter consumption growth, citing the Delta variant and fading levels of fiscal support to consumers after earlier packages from Washington boosted spending.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 retreated, though the Nasdaq eked out a record for the fourth straight session on gains by Netflix and some other tech names.

Bitcoin hit a mid-May peak of $52,921 in Asian trading, as El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept the virtual unit as legal tender. However, it fell sharply in European and US trading, dropping below $43,000 before rebounding.

Oil meanwhile fell after Saudi Aramco cut selling prices to Asia, while the US dollar rose.

- Tokyo breaks 30,000 -

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 briefly broke 30,000 for the first time in five months on growing expectations for a fresh injection of stimulus after Japan's prime minister said he would step aside.

Traders were also cheered by a better-than-forecast reading on Chinese exports and imports.

The blockbuster growth that characterized the start of the year has tailed off in recent months as the Delta variant sends new infections spiking around the world, tempering consumer spending and forcing some countries to impose strict containment measures.

However, several markets have continued to press to new records or multi-year highs owing to the ultra-loose monetary policies of central banks around the world -- particularly the Federal Reserve -- which kept borrowing costs down.

While there is a general expectation that this largesse will come to an end soon as economies emerge from the pandemic crisis, officials have indicated they are in no rush to taper just yet as they track the impact of Delta.

- Key figures around 2050 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.8 percent at 35,100.00 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 4,520.03 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.1 percent at 15,374.33 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,149.37 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.6 percent at 15,843.09 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 6,726.07 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 4,225.01 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.9 percent at 29,916.14 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.7 percent at 26,353.63 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.5 percent at 3,676.59 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1847 from $1.1870

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3786 from $1.3837

Euro/pound: UP at 85.90 pence from 85.79 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.30 yen from 109.86 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.4 percent at $68.35 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.7 percent at $71.69 per barrel

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