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Asian and European stocks sink as Covid, stimulus sour mood

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A handout picture made available by Korea Exchange (KRX) shows Bang Si-hyuk (4-L), founder of Big Hit Entertainment Co., attending the company's public offering ceremony at the Korea Exchange (KRX) in Seoul, South Korea, 15 October 2020. AFP

Asian and European stocks sink as Covid, stimulus sour mood

Concerns about the reimposition of virus lockdowns, stalled vaccine trials and dimming hopes of new US stimulus soon weighed on Asian and European markets on Thursday.

Regional investors tracked another sell-off in New York, where all three main indexes turned negative after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned that while talks continued, Republicans and Democrats were still “far apart” on a rescue package.

While the broad view is that a new spending package will get passed eventually, the comments reinforced expectations that there will be nothing before next month’s presidential and congressional elections.

“This has been an ongoing drama,” said Paul Nolte, at Kingsview Investment Management.

“The latest twist I heard is nothing is going to get done until the election. That’s why I think you’re getting the market selling off a little bit.”

However, analysts said traders were taking comfort from the possibility that Joe Biden and the Democrats will win the presidency and both houses of Congress, paving the way for a bigger stimulus than anything that could be agreed before the vote.

Adding to the downbeat mood on trading floors is the surge in coronavirus infections in Europe, which is forcing governments to revert to tough containment measures that observers fear could deliver a blow to a tentative recovery from national lockdowns earlier this year.

France on Wednesday imposed a curfew in Paris and eight other cities – covering almost a third of the country’s population – for as long as six weeks, while Germany and Ireland also ramped up restrictions.

The moves follow a partial lockdown in the Netherlands and increasingly strict measures in Britain.

The crisis comes after hopes for a vaccine were dealt a blow by news that Johnson & Johnson had halted advanced trials after a volunteer fell ill, while Eli Lilly paused work on a treatment.

“The European Covid situation has been deteriorating again this week and more and more countries are introducing strict containment measures,” said Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman.

“France, Spain, Italy, the UK, and Germany are all under pressure, and since the recent economic releases already showed worrisome trends, the contingent might be heading for a rough winter.”

Tokyo suffered steep losses, while Mumbai, Taipei, Manila and Wellington were also in the red. Singapore and Hong Kong were both well down, with little reaction from news that the two cities’ governments were pushing ahead with plans to open a travel bubble in a first for Asia.

Seoul lost 0.8 per cent, though shares in Big Hit Entertainment – the management agency of K-pop sensation BTS – more than doubled on their debut after the initial public offering (IPO) was more than 600 times oversubscribed.

The firm soared from its IPO price of 135,000 won ($118) to its daily limit of 351,000 won before settling back to end at 258,000 won – giving it a market capitalisation of $7.6 billion and putting it among South Korea’s top 40 most valuable companies.

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