Markets lack conviction as traders digest Delta, weak China data

·3-min read
While traders remain largely upbeat about the global recovery outlook, the spread of the Delta variant is weighing on near-term confidence (AFP/Daniel ROLAND)

US and European equities marked time Tuesday while Asia gained as traders mulled whether Covid-19 would create a serious setback to the global economic recovery.

The Nasdaq and S&P 500 ended a two-session streak of records on a modestly negative day for US indices, after a Conference Board survey showed concerns about the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus and rising prices pushed consumer confidence down to its lowest level in six months.

London, Frankfurt and Paris also ended in the red.

"The month is ending with weakness for European markets, with US markets also running out of upward momentum for the time being," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

EU statistics body Eurostat added to the relative gloom by reporting annual eurozone inflation jumped to its highest level in a decade at three percent in August on rising costs of energy, goods and services -- above the European Central Bank's target of two percent.

Oil prices sagged as investors assessed the damage to refineries after Hurricane Ida slammed into the rig-heavy Gulf of Mexico, and on the eve of an output meeting of OPEC and other key producers.

- 'Downside risks remain' -

British Airways parent company IAG closed 2.7 percent lower, with travel stocks notably hit hard by Monday's news that EU states are to recommend reimposing travel restrictions on American tourists over rising Covid infections in the country.

And Zoom's boom during the work-from-home wave of the pandemic seemed to come to an end with a nearly 17 percent loss after the video meeting company announced slightly less positive customer growth, even as earnings beat expectations.

Despite the lackluster session in the United States, Peter Cardillo of Spartan Capital Markets noted that "the fundamentals of the market remain strong and interest rates are not going up anytime soon."

However OANDA analyst Craig Erlam disagreed.

"Downside risks for the final months of the year remain -- which makes confidence in the central banks' plans for unwinding pandemic stimulus all the more important," he told AFP.

"The services PMI from China overnight was a reminder of those risks, with the Delta variant continuing to drive rising case numbers in the United States and elsewhere."

Asian indices ended ahead as investors overcame early selling pressure sparked by PMI data indicating China's services industry contracted last month for the first time since February 2020 as the country dealt with the latest Covid-19 outbreak.

Authorities imposed strict travel restrictions on swathes of the country this month to contain its worst outbreak of the coronavirus since the initial pandemic, with dozens of cities affected and tens of millions of people subject to containment measures.

The moves saw flights cancelled and tourist spots closed while events were called off in a bid to quell the flare-up.

- Key figures at 2040 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 35,360.73 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,522.68 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: FLAT at 15,259.24 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,119.70 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 15,835.09 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 6,680.18 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,196.41 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 28,089.54 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.3 percent at 25,878.99 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,543.94 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1807 from $1.1797

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3751 from $1.3760

Euro/pound: UP at 85.84 pence from 85.73 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.00 yen from 109.92 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.0 percent at $68.55 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.6 percent at $72.96 per barrel

dan-rfj/cw/cs/hs

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