European shares slip after vaccine-driven rally

Asian stocks held gains and moved tentatively further into record territory

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street in New York City.

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street in New York City.


European stocks eased from eight-month highs on Tuesday as tighter coronavirus restrictions across the continent halted a market rally that was powered by encouraging Covid-19 vaccine updates.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index slipped 0.1 per cent by 0808 GMT. It closed at its highest level since February 27th on Monday after positive data from drugmaker Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.

Near-term economic outlook remains hazy, with Sweden moving to restrict the size of public gatherings as Covid-19 cases spike and a British medical adviser suggesting strengthening the three-tier system of restrictions when the full lockdown in England ends.

European banks retreated after a more than 3 per cent surge. BBVA fell 3.4 per cent after it and smaller rival Sabadell said they were in talks to create Spain’s second-biggest domestic lender by assets. Oil and gas and travel stocks also slipped.

Asian stocks held gains and moved tentatively further into record territory on Tuesday, after US benchmarks were pepped up by news of another promising coronavirus vaccine, though futures indicated the rally could stall in European hours.

Investor sentiment was given a boost when Moderna said its experimental Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing infection based on interim late-stage data.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm became the second drugmaker, after Pfizer, to announce promising trial data in the development of a vaccine. Its shares gained 9.6 per cent on the day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.17 per cent on Tuesday, a day after hitting its highest level since launching in 1987.

The MSCI World Index of global shares which also hit a record high on Monday, ticked higher still in the Asian session.

“The market is assuming that we can see the end of the tunnel, that in 2022 a large part of the world’s population will start to receive access to vaccines,” said Herald van der Linde, HSBC’s head of equity strategy for Asia Pacific.

There were initial indications that this was sparking a change in investors’ attitudes, he added.

“The vaccine might mark a normalisation in markets whereby people start to rotate and move out of stocks and markets that have rallied, and move into ones that have not done as well,” van der Linde said, citing some markets in Southeast Asia.

Asia gains on Tuesday were led by benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia which both rose around 1 per cent, while Hong Kong rose 0.1 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.23 per cent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.24 per cent after hitting a 29-year high the day before, but Chinese blue chips dropped as recent bond defaults hit sentiment.

However, despite a steady if muted performance in Asian trading, futures predicted a turnaround later in the day.

S&P 500 futures dropped 0.44 per cent, European EuroStoxx 50 futures fell 0.55 per cent and FTSE futures fell 0.4 per cent late in the Asia session.

The positive vaccine news helped oil prices hold onto Monday’s gains.

US crude on Tuesday firmed 0.56 per cent to $41.57 per barrel after rising 3.02 per cent on Monday, and Brent gained 0.7 per cent after a 2.43 per cent jump the day before.

In currency markets, China’s central bank on Tuesday lifted its official yuan midpoint to the highest in nearly 29 months, underpinned by solid gains in spot prices a day earlier on the back of strong economic data.

The vaccine news helped the risk-friendly Australian dollar, which climbed to a one-week high against its US counterpart. Rising virus case numbers in the United States clouded views on the dollar, which dropped against a basket of major currencies.

US Treasury yields rose on Monday and into Tuesday and the yield curve steepened in the wake of the vaccine developments. The yield on Benchmark 10-year notes was last at 0.9127 per cent, from 0.893 per cent late on Friday. – Reuters