Stock markets struggled on Friday as investors weighed a coronavirus vaccine delay against US President-elect Joe Biden’s $1.9tn stimulus plan, which had already been largely priced in.
As closing bells rang in Europe, London stocks had fallen by almost 1.0%, with sentiment also dented by news that the UK economy contracted by 2.6 percent in November owing to virus curbs.
In the eurozone, Frankfurt and Paris were off by 1.4% and 1.2% respectively, with increased travel restrictions said to be weighing on the mood as well.
The Dow Jones index was 0.5% lower in midday New York trading.
Asia had already found it hard to make gains overnight.
The dollar was generally higher against other major currencies, while oil prices were more than two percent lower.
Bitcoin stabilised near $36,000 after a record-breaking run that climaxed last week.
Markets headed south after US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said it would delay shipments of crucial coronavirus vaccines in the next three to four weeks owing to works at its European plant in Belgium.
Pfizer said modifications at the Puurs factory were needed to boost production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech.
“Covid-19 cases present a clear and present danger,” to oil prices in particular, remarked Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at Axi.
Surging virus infections and deaths – and the lockdowns they force governments to impose – are major obstacles for stock prices.
Portugal entered a fresh lockdown on Friday while Britain began requiring negative tests for entry, and fresh curbs on populations were announced from Brazil to Lebanon to China.
Germany, which has the EU’s biggest economy, voiced regret over the “last minute and unexpected” delay by Pfizer.
The news overshadowed Biden’s announcement Thursday of a large stimulus package to help US households and businesses.
Just days before he takes office, Biden unveiled his plan to address “the twin crises of a pandemic and this sinking economy”.
Details include an extra $1,400 cash handout for individuals, a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour and billions of dollars to ramp up vaccinations so that 100mn are administered in 100 days.
“Most of what Biden announced, with respect to a fresh fiscal aid package for the US economy, was pretty much in line with expectations,” CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson commented.
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