Picture: 123RF/BLUE BAY
Picture: 123RF/BLUE BAY

London — European shares fell on Tuesday as worries over the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed Chinese trade data that pointed to a buoyant recovery, while the dollar edged away from a three-week low.

The broader Euro Stoxx 600 fell 0.4% in early trading, with bourses in Frankfurt, London and Paris all down by a similar margin.

Keeping markets on edge, traders said, was news that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was pausing its Covid-19 vaccine candidate clinical trials because of an unexplained illness in a study participant. Investors see the quick introduction of a coronavirus vaccine as key to helping economies bounce back. J&J’s move comes after AstraZeneca paused late-stage trials of its experimental vaccine in September, also due to a participant’s unexplained illness.

The travel and leisure, and automotive sectors suffered, losing 1.7% and 0.6%, respectively.

Wall Street was also set to lose ground, with S&P 500 futures last down 0.5%.

The pessimistic mood jarred with earlier resilience on Asian markets, which recovered losses after Chinese data showed exports rising 9.9% in September and imports swinging to a 13.2% jump against a 2.1% drop in August.

The data, which suggests Chinese exporters are recovering briskly from the pandemic’s hit to overseas orders, helped MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gain 0.1% after earlier falling into negative territory.

Chinese blue chip shares also gained 0.3% after dipping early in the day. Some investors, though, raised questions about how strong consumer demand would prove to be.

“The question is not necessarily how China’s trade is doing per se, but how well will consumers spend on Christmas to give some sense of normalcy amid a period of great stress,” said Nordea Investments’ Sebastien Galy in a note.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in nearly 50 countries, fell 0.1%.

On Monday, the Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.6%, its biggest one-day rally in a month. Wall Street gains were driven by Apple, which surged 6.4% ahead of the expected debut of its latest iPhone. Amazon, another of the Big Tech winners from the pandemic, rallied 4.8% ahead of a major marketing event.

Biden bounce?

Investors are increasingly expectant of a victory for Democrat candidate Joe Biden in the US presidential election next month. That would likely herald a big stimulus package to help the coronavirus-battered US economy.

“Biden effectively leading in the polls is removing some element of uncertainty,” said Jeremy Gatto, an investment manager at Unigestion in Geneva. “In investors’ minds, it’s not a question of it we get a stimulus, but when.”

A Biden win is seen by some as negative for the dollar, given the candidate’s pledge of higher corporate tax rates.

Still, the dollar rose 0.2% against a basket of other major currencies to 93.214, trying to extend a rebound from Friday’s near-three-week low of 92.997 as market players favoured the dollar over riskier currencies.

The Chinese yuan fell 0.1% to 6.7466 per dollar, after the central bank set a weaker than forecast midpoint, offsetting any boost from the trade data.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar dropped as much as 0.6% to $0.7165, not helped by media reports that China has stopped taking shipments of Australian coal.


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