Global equities, oil prices slide on concerns over Europe COVID case counts

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global equity benchmarks and oil prices drifted lower Tuesday while safe haven assets gained as an extended economic lockdown in Germany and U.S. and European sanctions on China curbed risk appetite worldwide.

FILE PHOTO: The Wall Street sign is pictured at the New York Stock exchange (NYSE) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Rising concerns over a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic amid slow vaccine rollouts in Europe hit oil and travel companies as investors priced in a longer road to recovery.

Germany extended its lockdown until April 18, while Chancellor Angela Merkel called on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays.

U.S. crude fell 4.04% to $59.07 per barrel and Brent was at $61.77, down 4.41% on the day.

Energy stocks were also under pressure, with Chevron Corp, Occidental Petroleum Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp shedding 1.5% or more, while travel-related stocks fell as much as 4%.

“Global travel is still looking like it could be a while away,” said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker at Star Fuels in Dubai, adding that a second-half recovery in oil demand looked doubtful as lockdowns remain the order of the day.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.40% following broad declines in Europe and Asia.

In morning trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 63.65 points, or 0.19%, to 32,667.55, the S&P 500 lost 4.32 points, or 0.11%, to 3,936.27 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.96 points, or 0.01%, to 13,378.50.

Benchmark 10 year Treasury yields gained ahead of Congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen later in the day that may shed light on the pace of economic rebound from the pandemic.

In remarks prepared for delivery to the hearing on Tuesday morning, Powell said the U.S. economic recovery had progressed “more quickly than generally expected”.

The Congressional hearings begin at 12 p.m. ET (1600 GMT).

“The FOMC last week laid out pretty clearly what the Fed’s view is with regard to rates … the next thing that markets will focus on is maybe getting some details from Yellen with regard to further infrastructure investment,” said Alex Wolf, head of investment strategy for Asia at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, referring to a statement from the Federal Open Market Committee.

The dollar index rose 0.385%, with the euro down 0.44% to $1.1879.

Adding to market concerns were human rights sanctions on China imposed by the United States, Europe and Britain that prompted retaliatory sanctions from Beijing.

Worries over the pace of the recovery from the pandemic were also heightened after a U.S. health agency said the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine developed with Oxford University may have included outdated information in its data.

Spot gold dropped 0.3% to $1,733.11 an ounce.

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