U.S. stock-index futures, global stocks and oil prices fell in Asian trading hours on Monday, rattled by the coronavirus pandemic and delay in Washington over an economic rescue package.
The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases world-wide more than doubled in a week to nearly 330,000 on Sunday, with deaths surpassing 14,000. U.S. infections topped 32,000, jumping 10-fold from a week earlier.
Tougher restrictions from governments world-wide to combat the coronavirus have led to lockdowns in cities and stoked fears about the impact on economic activity.
U.S. lawmakers and administration officials had hoped to reach an agreement on a $1.3 trillion deal so both chambers of Congress could approve it on Monday. But the package hit a procedural roadblock in the Senate on Sunday, a sign of political discord in the midst of a national emergency.
“The futures market is really getting hit on the fact that the stimulus and fiscal relief package was falling foul of the political impasse in the Senate,” said Andy Maynard, managing director of equities sales and trading at China Renaissance Securities.
Mr. Maynard said this added to concerns stoked by rising infection figures, statewide restrictions on activity, and expectations for rising U.S. unemployment.
S&P 500 futures fell nearly 4% in afternoon trading in Hong Kong, after briefly falling further to hit the maximum 5% loss allowed in a single session. That suggested U.S. shares would face further pressure on Monday. Last week the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indexes registered their worst weeks since October 2008.
Adrian Zuercher, head of asset allocation for the Asia-Pacific region at UBS Global Wealth Management, said the Senate delay, the lockdown of New York and rising U.S. jobless claims had all pressured the market.
“The key uncertainty is how long Europe and the U.S. will be locked down,” Mr. Zuercher said. “Lower interest rates and stimulus packages are not helping you if people can’t go out and spend or even if they can but they don’t want to because they’re scared.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, most stock benchmarks dropped. Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 fell nearly 8% to levels last reached in 2012, despite the country’s federal government rolling out a stimulus package of 66 billion Australian dollars ($38 billion). Indian shares plunged, triggering trading halts, with the S&P BSE Sensex index falling more than 11%.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 bucked the downtrend, ending 2% higher. It had been closed Friday, when some other Asian markets had rallied. Shares in
a major index constituent, soared on plans to sell up to ¥4.5 trillion ($41 billion) of assets to buy back shares and redeem debt.
The Japanese yen regained some ground, strengthening 0.9% to 109.89 a dollar. Elsewhere, a rush to secure dollars continued. The South Korean won traded close to a multiyear intraday trough reached last week, while the Indonesian rupiah dropped 3.5% to trade around its weakest on record. The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of 16 currencies, declined 0.2% to 96.61, still not far off a multiyear high hit last week.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 0.120 percentage point to 0.818%, according to Tradeweb, as investors sought the safety of government bonds. Yields move in the opposite direction from prices.
Brent crude oil fell 2.3% to $26.35 a barrel. That put Brent, the global oil benchmark, close to the $24.88 level it hit on Wednesday, which was the lowest since May 2003. Crude prices have plunged on worries about reduced demand and a price war among major oil producers.
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