Global stocks mixed as markets weigh stimulus prospects, COVID-19 uptick

Global stocks were mixed on Thursday, November 19, as markets weighed revived hopes of United States stimulus measures against worries about rising coronavirus cases and fresh restrictions on activity.

European equities finished broadly lower, while Wall Street shook off early weakness and gained as bipartisan congressional talks on a relief package resumed.

The discussions, confirmed to Agence France-Presse by a senior Democratic aide, come as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide and as the president of a regional Federal Reserve bank warned the United States could see growth contract again in the 4th quarter.

The US added more than 157,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, November 18, according to Johns Hopkins University. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans against traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday next week in light of the worsening outbreak.

Some states have begun to reimpose restrictions, but "COVID-fatigue" and public resistance makes extreme lockdowns unlikely, said economist Joel Naroff.

"We will not be facing anything like what happened in the spring," Naroff said in a note.

"Nevertheless, the steps to reduce virus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are likely to cause workers to be laid off, unemployment claims to rise, and long-term unemployment, which is already rising, to increase even faster."

US jobless claims rose more than expected and United Airlines reported an uptick in flight cancellations with the latest rise in COVID-19 cases. But on the positive side, US existing home sales increased more than expected.

World markets have enjoyed an impressive run this month in the aftermath of the US presidential election and progress on new vaccine candidates had shown to be more than 90% effective in late trials.

But European equities retreated on Thursday as traders focused on the immediate crisis, with the US and Europe suffering a new wave of the killer disease.

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde called for the European Union (EU)'s planned coronavirus recovery fund to become available "without delay," after Poland and Hungary blocked the adoption of the plan.

Later Thursday, EU leaders heard out Hungary's Viktor Orban and Poland's Mateusz Morawiecki as they defended their veto of the EU coronavirus economic recovery plan.

The bloc's 27 heads of state and government spent fewer than 15 minutes on the issue at the start of a video summit, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds the EU's rotating presidency, responding to the rebels on their behalf.

"This is of course a very serious problem, which we have to solve," Merkel told reporters after the meeting. "We want to work, we want to sound out all options that would be possible and we are still at the very beginning."

Key figures around 10 pm GMT
  • New York - Dow: UP 0.2% at 29,483.23 (close)
  • New York - S&P 500: UP 0.4% at 3,581.87 (close)
  • New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.9% at 11,904.14 (close)
  • London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8% at 6,334.35 (close)
  • Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.9% at 13,086.16 (close)
  • Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.7% at 5,474.66 (close)
  • EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.9% at 3,451.31 (close)
  • Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4% at 25,634.34 (close)
  • Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7% at 26,356.97 (close)
  • Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5% at 3,363.09 (close)
  • Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1876 from $1.1853 at 10 pm GMT
  • Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3264 from $1.3273
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 103.72 yen from 103.82 yen
  • Euro/pound: UP at 89.49 pence from 89.31 pence
  • West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2% at $41.74 per barrel
  • Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3% at $44.20 per barrel

– Rappler.com