Global markets drop on concern about rising infection rates

Global stocks mostly fell Thursday amid anxiety over the economic fallout from rising coronavirus infections in the United States and Europe.

Markets in London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Hong Kong declined, while Shanghai advanced. Futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index were down 0.1 per cent and those for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 0.2 per cent lower.

Markets edged back from record highs in recent days as investors became more cautious about the business impact of a continued rise in infections. Losses mounted after New York City said it would close its public schools to in-person learning.

“Concerns over the near-term impact of the recent spike in cases overshadowed additional positive developments on the vaccine front,” Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa of ING said in a report.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.7 per cent to 6,338 while the DAX in Frankfurt shed 0.9 per cent to 13,087. The CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.7 per cent to 5,472.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 0.4 per cent to 25,634.34 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.7 per cent to 26,356.97.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 per cent to 3,363.09 and the Kospi in Seoul added less than 0.1 per cent to 2,547.42.

The S&P-ASX 200 in Sydney added 0.2 per cent to 6,547.20 after the government reported an increase of 178,800 jobs in October, well above forecasts of fewer than 30,000. India’s Sensex lost 0.5 per cent to 43,949.20.

Investor optimism about vaccine development has been tempered by rising case numbers in the United States and other countries. American state governors and mayors are grudgingly issuing mask mandates, limiting the size of gatherings, banning indoor restaurant dining, closing gyms and restricting the hours and capacity of other businesses.

Newly confirmed U.S. virus cases are running close to 160,000 per day. Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest in months.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech reported data suggesting their potential COVID-19 vaccine may be 95 per cent effective. The companies said they plan to ask U.S. regulators within days to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Even with those encouraging figures, there is no guarantee a vaccine will be approved or, if it is, how long it will take to be widely distributed.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell 32 cents to $41.50 US per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 15 cents to $44.19 per barrel in London.

The dollar strengthened to 103.98 yen from Wednesday’s 103.84 yen. The euro retreated to $1.1834 US from $1.1865.

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