Asia, European markets mostly up as focus turns to US election

Globe with digital tablet, laptop and smartphone showing international markets.
Globe with digital tablet, laptop and smartphone showing international markets.
Andrew Brookes

Equity markets mostly rose Monday following last week's painful global sell-off, with attention on the American presidential election which comes against a backdrop of rising coronavirus infections across the United States and Europe.

After months of rallying from their March lows, equities were brought to a juddering halt in October as virus cases surged, forcing governments across Europe to reimpose tough lockdown measures, throwing a tentative economic rebound into chaos and battering oil prices.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the weekend said England would shut up shop as he struggled to temper a second wave, with similar measures taken by France, Portugal, Austria, Greece and Ireland. Germany, Spain and Italy are also enforcing strict containment measures.

The moves fanned fears that many businesses could go under, with Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, which lobbies for the entertainment and hospitality sector, saying firms faced "financial Armageddon".

The disease is also rampant across the United States, which last week recorded a record number of infections, dealing a further blow to Donald Trump's hopes of re-election on Tuesday.

The president continues to trail Joe Biden in national and battleground polls, but markets remain on edge with Trump's surprise win in 2016 in mind, while there are also worries a tight result could be contested.

"This week would have been chaotic for investors at any rate, but viewed through the intensifying pandemic lens as Covid-19 rages in the West, it could spell mayhem," said Axi strategist Stephen Innes. "It might even flip the whole picture upside down for any post-election reflation trade."

"The virus's latest evolution is complicated by a series of stricter lockdowns putting the eurozone in the vanguard of concerns around the fourth-quarter economic implosion, leaning against global risk sentiment."

He added that the result on Tuesday would have a major impact on the size of any expected fiscal stimulus for the US economy.

'Huge' week ahead

Polls suggest a Biden win could come with a Democratic sweep of both houses of Congress, which would likely see a huge spending package passed, though a win for Republicans in either of the races is expected to see a much smaller sum.

"Whichever way you look at it, this coming week will be huge for US and global markets," said Simon Ballard, at First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC.

All three main indexes on Wall Street finished in the red Friday, with the Nasdaq tumbling more than two percent, ending their worst week and month since March.

Asian markets started the week brightly.

Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul were all more than one percent higher, while Singapore put on 0.8%, and Sydney and Taipei added 0.4%. But Shanghai was barely moved while Mumbai, Jakarta and Wellington fell.

London edged down at the open but Paris and Frankfurt rose.

"Economic activity is likely to dip on account of the tighter restrictions, and that will probably be the theme of the markets in the near-term," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

"The health crisis is ratcheting up in terms of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisation rates, and there is a sense things are going to get worse before they get better."

Oil prices tumbled as the reimposition of lockdowns caused worries about demand, while selling was also fanned by a pick-up in Libyan output in the wake of a peace deal to end almost 10 years of civil war.

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