European equities extend losses

Europe's main stock markets slid Wednesday on fading US stimulus hopes, stubborn coronavirus worries and growing uncertainty over Britain's post-Brexit trade with the European Union, dealers said.

"Politicians in the United States do not appear to be close to striking a deal with respect to the Covid-19 relief package," observed CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

"A couple of potential vaccines for the coronavirus have encountered setbacks, and to top it all off, uncertainty still persists in relation to the future relationship between the UK and the EU."

Sterling faltered as a deadline set by the British to reach a post Brexit trade deal approaches on Thursday with no sign of a breakthrough in talks.

Frankfurt, London and Paris stocks sank further, having already fallen Tuesday on the back of the worsening coronavirus crisis.

Virus concerns have returned to the fore with several countries reimposing lockdown measures to fight a surge in new infections and the halting of two trials denting hopes for a vaccine or treatment being developed anytime soon.

Fears for the economic recovery have mounted in recent weeks because of the Covid-19 resurgence, particularly in Europe where governments are resorting to new controls while trying to avoid the devastating nationwide lockdowns of March and April.

The Netherlands is set to go into "partial lockdown" later Wednesday, with all bars, cafes and restaurants to close for at least two weeks, while France is expected to announce tighter restrictions.

Online coronavirus shopping boom

In London, there was strong evidence of key internet-focussed businesses benefiting from virus lockdowns.

Anglo-Dutch online food delivery service Just Eat Takeaway revealed orders rocketed 46% to 151.4 million in the third quarter, compared with a year earlier.

The company, which competes with Deliveroo and Uber Eats, saw its share price jump 5.25% to 9 306 pence.

Educational publisher Pearson logged sliding revenues for the first nine months of the year - but online sales boomed. Pearson stock however dropped 1.5% to 561 pence.

Online fashion retailer ASOS said pre-tax profits more than quadrupled to $185 million in its financial year to the end of August, and sales soared by a fifth.

Shares however slid 8.3% to 4 930 pence on declining profit margins.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter told AFP that some companies had been well positioned to win online custom.

"This latest string of results shows that companies that had invested heavily into perfecting their online offering, were ideally positioned to capitalise on the accelerated shift to digital sales brought about by the pandemic," Streeter told AFP.

"Through their razor sharp focus on online and offline advertising through to efficient delivery and fulfilment, companies like ASOS, Just Eat Takeaway and Pearson have helped locked-down consumers stay clothed, fed and educated.

"Now the challenge will be sustaining growth in online sales through the coming period of deep economic uncertainty."

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