Stocks set for dire week, best for dollar since April

A man walks past an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo March 25, 2019. — Reuters pic
A man walks past an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo March 25, 2019. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Sept 25 — After the slide it was the see-saw for markets today, as stocks in large parts of the world, the euro and Dr Copper all headed for their worst weeks since peak coronavirus panic, and the dollar cemented its best run since April.

Asia had managed to end its worst week since the global March meltdown with a modest gain and Europe’s main bourses started broadly steady, but with both France and Britain now notching up almost record numbers of new virus cases the mood was jittery.

London’s FTSE clawed up 0.2 per cent but Frankfurt’s Dax and the CAC40 in Paris were down 0.2 per cent and 0.4 per cent leaving the pan-European STOXX 600 index down more than 3 per cent, and travel stocks down over 6 per cent for the first time since June.

There had been a flicker of hope overnight after squabbling US political parties rekindled talk of another super-sized stimulus package, but the rise in the dollar and demand for safe US and German government bonds remained.

In contrast, the drop in sentiment has hit emerging market debt, especially countries with weak credit ratings, like a wrecking ball. Argentina’s newly restructured bonds have lost around 25 per cent making it the worst return to markets since Greece in 2012.

“It has been a very interesting week” said Saxo Bank’s head of FX strategy John Hardy. “We have seen the dollar come back and what is interesting this time is that there also some element of dollar liquidity stress in it again too.”

He said the talk of more US stimulus ahead of the November Presidential election was likely to just be “show boating” especially with a fierce battle over a seat on the Supreme Court now thrown into the mix.

“I just can’t see anyway that the Democrats can make a deal here with this endgame into the election... it’s dirty politics all the way now”.

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 0.30 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.37 per cent.

While the economic picture in the US remains clouded, the strongest sales of single-family homes in nearly 14 years in August helped to revive some faith in the recovery.

It helped nudge the benchmark 10-year US Treasury yield up to 0.6725 per cent from a close of 0.664 per cent on Thursday. German Bunds ticked up to -0.5 per cent on the day too, but were set for a weekly drop as the growing number of coronavirus cases in Europe fed demand for safety.

In the currency markets, the dollar was hovering near Thursday’s two-month highs, at 105.40 versus the yen and pushing the euro down to US$1.1656 on course for its worst week since the end of March/start of April.

China’s yuan also made gains after the country’s government bond gained long-awaited entry into one of the world’s most influential bond benchmarks, the FTSE Russell WGBI.

The dollar’s strength this week has also battered commodities, with gold set for its worst week in more than a month. On Friday, spot gold was steady at US$1,865.16 per ounce.

Copper, which gets its “Dr Copper” nickname from its history as a bellwether of global economic health, was set for its worst week since the March panic with a near 4 per cent drop, while Brent oil was down 2 per cent on the week but 0.8 per cent better off on the day at US$42.2 per barrel. — Reuters

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