Stocks stumble, dollar dips on COVID-19, U.S. election anxiety

Lewis Krauskopf
·3-min read

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gauge of world stock markets dropped and the U.S. dollar slipped on Tuesday as investors grappled with a surge in coronavirus cases and uncertainty over the impending U.S. presidential election.

Wall Street's main indexes ended mixed, with the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials down and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gaining as the lack of a U.S. coronavirus fiscal relief package also hung over markets.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.31%, as the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.95%.

Ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in national opinion polls. But the race is close in key battleground states that could decide the outcome.

"Just literally a few trading days away from the election, folks are sitting on the sidelines seeing ultimately what the outcome of the election is and then they will move forward from there," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

The United States, Russia, France and other countries have registered record numbers of infections in recent days, and European governments moved to set new curbs in motion to try to rein in a fast-growing surge of cases.

Trump acknowledged that a coronavirus economic relief deal would likely come after the election, with the White House unable to bridge differences with fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate as well as congressional Democrats.

"Resurgence in the COVID cases combined with the fact that we are going to have to wait even longer to get a fiscal policy package put together certainly has investors on edge,” Arone said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 222.19 points, or 0.8%, to 27,463.19 the S&P 500 lost 10.28 points, or 0.30%, to 3,390.69 while the Nasdaq Composite added 72.41 points, or 0.64%, to 11,431.35.

Investors also focused on a busy week of corporate earnings. Caterpillar shares fell 3.2% and 3M dropped 3.1% after the two industrial companies' respective earnings reports.

In foreign exchange markets, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, fell 0.122%, with the euro down 0.01% to $1.1807.

"The movements and swings are going to continue and it's anxiety and angst overall in markets about the election," said Juan Perez, currency trader at Tempus Inc. in Washington.

U.S. Treasury yields fell and the yield curve was flatter as hopes faded for a stimulus deal in Washington to arrive soon.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes last rose 8/32 in price to yield 0.776%, from 0.803% late on Monday.

Crude rebounded as companies shut down some U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production ahead of an approaching storm, although surging coronavirus infections and rising Libyan supply limited gains.

U.S. crude settled up 2.6% at $39.57 a barrel, while Brent settled at $41.20 a barrel, up 1.8%.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York, Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Marguerita Choy)