Stocks rebound but China, Delta fears temper optimism

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Stock markets rebounded Monday but investor optimism over the global recovery was kept in check by worries over the spread of coronavirus variants as well as China's regulatory crackdown.

The JSE's All-Share Index ended flat, while the rand strengthened almost a percent to R14.41/$.

Signs that US lawmakers were edging towards agreement on President Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill were unable to provide much of a boost, while eyes were on the release of US jobs data at the end of the week as firms struggle to fill positions.

The Dow Jones index was stronger as trading got underway in New York.

On the corporate front, shares in Sydney-listed Afterpay surged by nearly 19 percent after US digital payments platform Square, led by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, said it would purchase the buy-now, pay-later company for US$29 billion.

In the latest sign of an upbeat global outlook, figures last week showed the US economy had returned to its pre-pandemic level - though at a slower pace than expected - while the eurozone expanded at a much better rate than forecast.

However, observers said the rally that world markets have enjoyed for much of the past year was sputtering as investors grow increasingly concerned about spiking inflation that many have warned could force central banks to taper their ultra-loose monetary policies.

Added to that are the slow Covid-19 vaccination programmes in some countries and the rapid spread of the Delta variant that has led to the reimposition of lockdowns and other containment measures.

Among those suffering a spike in cases is economic powerhouse China, where the disease was largely under control but now some cities are being forced to introduce new control measures.

"Shares remain at risk of a short-term correction or volatility as coronavirus cases rise globally, the inflation scare continues and as we come into seasonally weaker months," said Shane Oliver at AMP Capital.

"But surging company profits in the US and lower bond yields are providing support."

Nervous traders are keeping tabs on China also after authorities there last week embarked on a crackdown on the country's private tuition firms as well as the tech and property sectors.

The moves raised concern that other industries could be next, despite officials and state media trying to calm markets in the face of a rout.

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