December 5, 2021

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Mounting virus woes and historic US data shock hit markets

US and European equities sank Thursday on mounting corporate and economic evidence of the coronavirus-induced downturn, crystallised by the worst quarterly drop in US growth since records began after World War II.

The slide came on the heels of a gloomy Federal Reserve warning over a US spike in COVID-19 infections, adding to fears of more job losses amid a pandemic that continues to pound the global economy.

Major Asian trading hubs had managed to limit losses before the US Commerce Department revealed that the world’s biggest economy contracted by one-third in the second quarter — the worst decline on record.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average had lost 1.1 percent in morning exchanges, while European indices nosedived.

In Frankfurt, the benchmark DAX index closed 3.4 percent lower on data showing that Germany’s powerful economy shrank by a record 10.1 percent in the second quarter.

Elsewhere, London’s FTSE 100 lost 2.3 percent and Paris fell by more than two percent on an avalanche of gloomy corporate earnings tied to the impact of the coronavirus.

“The record fall with (US) second quarter GDP puts an exclamation mark with the coronavirus recession,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“Germany’s record drop in GDP fuels extra concern that the rest of Europe might have a deeper slump,” he added.

Investor alarm spread in Europe on news of disappointing losses from the likes of aircraft manufacturer Airbus, steelmaker ArcelorMittal and energy giant Eni.

Sentiment took another battering as British energy major Royal Dutch Shell posted a $18.1 billion (15.4 billion euro) second-quarter loss, while lender Lloyds also sank deep into the red.

– ‘Cat among pigeons’ –

“A double-digit percentage decline in the German economy and abysmal results from Lloyds have put the cat among the pigeons,” IG analyst Chris Beauchamp commented.

“Stocks are firmly in the red, with the FTSE 100 taking it on the chin … and (there are) heavy losses in Europe as well as investors’ fear that more bad news will be on the way.”

Meanwhile, concern that a second wave of the coronavirus could derail a global recovery have largely eclipsed the Fed’s overnight pledge to provide as much support as necessary to the US economy.

Bank boss Jerome Powell said the Fed recognized that the spike in new US cases was denting economic activity and underscored that recovery depended on staunching the virus so Americans would be willing to spend again.

“Powell provided the markets with a healthy dose of reality, highlighting that the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over and that the US economy was facing mounting challenges,” warned City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

“Uncertainty remains high and the path forward depends on the virus.”

– Washington struggles –

While traders have a mountain of cash from governments and central banks to back them up, the disease continues to dominate as the US death toll topped 150,000 and Australia’s state of Victoria reported a record number of new infections — developments that highlighted the need for a vaccine.

– Key figures around 1600 GMT –

New York – Dow: DOWN 1.5 percent at 26,238.33 points

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 2.3 percent at 5,989.99 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 3.5 percent at 12,379.65 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 3.0 percent at 4,852.94 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 2.7 percent at 3,200.31

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 22,339.23 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 percent at 24,710.59 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,286.82 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1781 from $1.1792 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.1 yen from 104.92 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3022 from $1.2997

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.43 pence from 90.73

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.4 percent at $39.86 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 2.7 percent at $42.58

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