Asian equities toppled by stalled vaccine trials, stimulus talks

Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

SYDNEY (Reuters): A gauge of Asian shares was knocked off a two-and-a-half-year peak on Wednesday, as halted COVID-19 vaccine trials and an impasse in US stimulus talks soured risk appetite, while oil was hit by demand concerns amid growing coronavirus cases.

In a sign of a turnaround in sentiment though, the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures edged up 0.1% in early European trade, German DAX futures were slightly higher too while London’s FTSE futures added 0.4%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.3% after Wall Street ended in the red on Tuesday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan tracked Wall Street’s losses to end a seven-day rally.

The index was last down 0.25%, having toppled from a 2-1/2- year high of 588.76 touched on Tuesday.

Japan’s Nikkei was a shade higher while Australia’s benchmark index was off a touch and South Korea stumbled 0.9%.

Chinese shares, which opened in the red, were weaker in the afternoon session with the blue-chip CSI300 down 0.7%.

The losses began on Wall Street Tuesday when Johnson & Johnson said it was pausing a COVID-19 vaccine trial due to a study participant’s unexplained illness.

Eli Lilly and Co later said it too had paused the clinical trial of its COVID-19 antibody treatment due to a safety concern, leading the US equity market to deepen losses.

J&J shares lost 2.3% on Tuesday, while Eli Lilly closed down nearly 3%.

“That just spoke to the fact that a vaccine could take longer to be delivered than what the market’s expectations are calibrated towards,” said CommSec market analyst Tom Piotrowski in Sydney.

Also weighing on sentiment, hopes for the passage of a new coronavirus relief package faded as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected a $ 1.8 trillion relief proposal from the White House. “US stimulus talks are still going nowhere dimming the prospect of a new round of support this side of the election,” said Sydney-based NAB strategist Rodrigo Catril.

“So, for now it is hard to see a deal being agreed before 3 November, the market is still travelling with the notion that a new round of stimulus is coming, but at this stage this looks more likely after the election.”

In currencies, the US dollar boasted its best daily performance in three weeks on Tuesday with its index against a basket of six major currencies rising 0.5%. The index was last flat at 93.55.

The euro was barely changed at $ 1.1742.

The Australian dollar has been slugged by news that China has stopped taking shipments of Australian coal, dragging the Aussie to one-week lows. It was last treading water at $ 0.7167.

The Japanese yen gained versus the greenback to 105.41 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $ 1.2921.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey on Tuesday said he did not think the economy was undergoing a V-shaped recovery, because of headwind from a second wave of COVID-19 and underlying public caution about spending and socialising after the pandemic.

Investors are also watching tensions between the European Union and Britain after the EU demanded “substantive” movement on Tuesday on fisheries, dispute settlement and guarantees of fair competition in their talks on a post-Brexit trade deal.

EU leaders will hold a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to assess progress.

In commodities, the spot gold price was up 0.2% $ 1,894.36 an ounce.

Oil slipped too on concerns that fuel demand will continue to falter as rising coronavirus cases across Europe and in the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, could impede economic growth.

Brent and US crude were off about 12 cents each at $ 42.33 and $ 40.08 a barrel, respectively.


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