Equities, oil prices dip on concerns over Europe COVID-19 surge

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World equity benchmarks and oil prices drifted lower on Tuesday while safe-haven assets gained as an extended economic lockdown in Germany, and U.S. and European sanctions on China, curbed risk appetite worldwide.

FILE PHOTO: Dividers are seen inside a trading post on the trading floor as preparations are made for the return to trading at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Rising concerns over a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic amid slow vaccine rollouts in Europe hurt oil and travel companies as investors priced in a longer road to economic recovery.

Germany extended its lockdown until April 18, and Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays.

U.S. crude fell 3.96% to $59.12 per barrel and Brent was at $62.23, down 3.7% on the day. [O/R]

Travel-related stocks fell as much as 4%.

“Global travel is still looking like it could be a while away,” said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker at Star Fuels in Dubai, adding that a second-half recovery in oil demand looked doubtful as lockdowns remain the order of the day.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.35% following broad declines in Europe and Asia.

In midday trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 48.55 points, or 0.15%, to 32,682.65, the S&P 500 lost 0.13 point to 3,940.46 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 33.46 points, or 0.25%, to 13,344.08.

Benchmark 10 year Treasury rose 10/32 in price to yield 1.6488%, from 1.682% late on Monday, ahead of midday Congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

In remarks prepared before the hearing, Powell said the U.S. economic recovery had progressed “more quickly than generally expected”.

“The FOMC last week laid out pretty clearly what the Fed’s view is with regard to rates … the next thing that markets will focus on is maybe getting some details from Yellen with regard to further infrastructure investment,” said Alex Wolf, head of investment strategy for Asia at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, referring to a statement from the Federal Open Market Committee.

The dollar index, tracking it against a basket of major currencies, rose 0.487%, with the euro down 0.58% to $1.1862.

Adding to market concerns were human rights sanctions on China imposed by the United States, Europe and Britain that prompted retaliatory sanctions from Beijing.

Worries over the pace of the recovery from the pandemic were also heightened after a U.S. health agency said the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine developed with Oxford University may have included outdated information in its data.

Spot gold dropped 0.7% to $1,727.21 an ounce.

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