Global equities sink at end of painful week

31 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

LONDON: Stock markets faced fresh losses Friday, capping a painful week for global equities characterised by fears over surging infections, stuttering vaccine rollouts and the weak economic backdrop.

Traders have been licking their wounds after the worst reversal since October, following a months-long rally that saw several indices strike record or multi-year highs, reports AFP.

Europe's stocks shed about 1.0 percent Friday after disappointing official economic growth data from France and Germany for the coronavirus-plagued fourth quarter.

The dollar traded mixed and oil prices rose, while Bitcoin spiked to a two-week peak at $38,089.94 after Tesla chief Elon Musk changed his Twitter profile to "bitcoin".

"Equity benchmarks are in the red ... as nerves have ticked up due to fears that we could be in for another volatile day," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

The French economy shrank 1.3 percent in the fourth quarter, which was however better than market expectations of a 4.0-percent slump.

The powerhouse German economy meanwhile grew by a marginal 0.1 percent, just ahead of forecasts of zero.

"Seeing as Germany's lockdown has been extended until mid-February and France could be heading for another national lockdown, there is not much hope that growth in the first quarter of 2021 will be impressive," warned Madden.

"Today's growth reports highlight the economic impact of the tough restrictions that were introduced at the back end of 2020," he added.

European stocks meanwhile mirrored similar sized losses across Asia, amid growing concern over the faltering progress of Covid-19 vaccines.

"The mood has become quite gloomy on vaccinations, which may not be surprising given we are in the pandemic's darkest time so far," noted Axi strategist Stephen Innes.

"But I think it's important not to lose sight of what matters from a medical perspective: the vaccines work."

In Asia, Tokyo stocks shed close to two percent, while Seoul and Manila plunged more than three percent and Jakarta more than two percent.

Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore and Bangkok suffered sizeable falls as well.

Sentiment was also shattered this week by a David-and-Goliath battle between chatroom-inspired retail traders and Wall Street hedge-fund investors, centred on struggling US video game retailer GameStop.

The saga has seen a number of professional dealers lose billions of dollars.

Wall Street was nevertheless helped by some much-needed good news that fewer Americans than expected made claims for jobless benefits last week.

And data showing the US economy suffered its worst year since 1946 -- while growth tapered in the fourth quarter -- also gave support to calls for lawmakers to pass President Joe Biden's huge stimulus proposals.

 


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