World stocks edge back as COVID-19 cases climb

LONDON (Reuters) -Global shares edged further back from record highs on Tuesday as lofty sovereign bond yields and rising global COVID-19 cases had investors questioning high equity valuations.

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Europe’s STOXX 600 was 1.2% weaker, on course for its biggest daily sell-off in more than seven weeks after hitting record highs the day before.

That followed a mixed showing in Asian equity markets as MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.1%, close to its highest level since March. But Japan’s Nikkei dropped 2% on worries that the possible reintroduction of COVID-19 emergency measures in the country’s biggest cities would slow the economic recovery.

India reported 1,761 deaths from COVID-19 overnight, its highest daily toll, with large parts of the country now under lockdown, as the country battles a second wave.

“Markets are struggling to ascertain in which direction the next major move is,” said James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

“The reaction to very strong U.S. data in recent days will have seriously disappointed the bond bears, suggesting the good news is very much in the price. Against that, we still have vaccine concerns, a rapidly spreading virus and potential tax increases which have yet to be fully recognised and absorbed.”

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was 0.3% weaker, slipping further back from record highs scaled on Monday.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 was 0.4% down, pointing to another day of selling in the United States after major Wall Street indexes on Monday drew back from record highs hit last week.

Shares of Tesla Inc dragged on the market. The electric-car maker’s stock slid 3.4% after a Tesla vehicle believed to be operating without anyone in the driver’s seat crashed into a tree on Saturday north of Houston, killing two occupants.

Investors are turning to earnings for other major technology-related companies this week, with Netflix due to be the first among the FAANG group to report quarterly numbers.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose as high as 1.6330%, up from its U.S. close of 1.5990%, but below their March spikes. The yield later eased back to 1.5924%.

The latest data from the United States has pointed to a robust recovery from the pandemic, with data on Friday showing U.S. homebuilding surged to nearly a 15-year high in March.

Euro zone bond yields extended their gains in early European trading as focus turns to the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday, which investors hope will give more clarity about stimulus plans for the bloc.

Germany’s 10-year yield rose above Monday’s peak to its highest since late February at -0.215% at the session open, before dipping below that level.

In currency markets, the dollar’s recent downward path eased. The dollar index was nearly flat at 91.026, having hit a low of 90.877 during Asian trading.

The euro was up 0.1% at $1.2054, not far from its highest in nearly seven weeks.

The British pound earlier crossed the $1.40 mark for the first time in nearly a month, helped by data showing Britain’s unemployment rate unexpectedly fell for a second month in a row in the December-to-February period.

“In our view, USD can remain heavy this week as focus shifts from U.S. economic outperformance to the improving global economic outlook more broadly,” analysts at CBA wrote in a research note.

The weak dollar helped push up commodity prices.

U.S. crude and Brent both gained, supported by disruption to Libyan exports and expectations of a drop in U.S. crude inventories. The former was at $63.44 barrel, and the latter at $67.20 barrel. Three-month London copper traded just shy of its highest level since August 2011.[O/R]

Spot gold rose 0.3% to $1,774 per ounce. [GOL/]

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