World markets mixed on virus, vaccine, stimulus concerns


BANGKOK (AP) – Shares opened higher in Europe on Tuesday after a broad retreat in Asia driven by renewed worries that troubles with COVID vaccine rollouts and the spread of new variants of coronavirus might delay a recovery from the pandemic.

Germany’s DAX surged 0.7% to 13,738.24 and the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.4% to 5,493.14. The FTSE 100 in Britain picked up 0.5% to 6,674.87. U.S. markets looked set for a downbeat start, with the future contract for the S&P; 500 down 0.3% while that for the Dow industrials lost 0.2%.

Traders are keeping a wary eye on rising coronavirus infections in various countries and a bumpy rollout of vaccinations in the U.S. The spread of variants t hat are thought to be more easily transmissible and might be less effectively targeted by existing vaccines is adding to alarm.

Vaccine maker Moderna said Monday that it will study whether a booster shot would be needed to protect against variants of the coronavirus, “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Nowadays the market mood is set by either the hopes that the COVID vaccine would mark the end of the biggest economic downturn of our lifetime, or the stimulus hopes to keep our heads above water. Yesterday, both hopes got smashed,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote Bank, said in a commentary.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gave up 2.6% to 29,391.26. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index declined 1% to 28,546.18, while the Shanghai Composite index dropped 1.5% to 3,569.43. South Korea’s Kospi lost 2.1% to 3,140.31. Shares also fell in Southeast Asia.

Markets in Australia and India were closed for holidays.

Stocks swerved to a mixed finish on Wall Street on Monday, ahead of a deluge of corporate earnings reports scheduled to arrive this week.

The S&P; 500 rose 0.4% to 3,855.36 while the The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.1% to 30,960.00. The Nasdaq composite, which is packed with tech stocks, rose 0.7% to 13,635.99 and another record.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks fell 0.3%, to 2,163.27. The yield on the 10-year Treasury sank to 1.03% from 1.07% late Friday.

More than 100 companies in the S&P; 500 are scheduled to tell investors this week how they fared during the last three months of 2020. They include American Express, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, AT&T; and Tesla.

As a whole, analysts expect S&P; 500 companies to say their fourth-quarter profit fell 5% from a year earlier. That’s a milder drop than the 9.4% they were forecasting earlier this month, according to FactSet.

President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion plan to send $1,400 to most Americans and deliver other support for the economy. But his party holds only the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, making approval uncertain. Several Republicans have already voiced opposition to parts of the plan.

The coronavirus pandemic is also worsening and doing more damage by the day. A UN agency said Monday that four times as many jobs were lost last year as in 2009, during the global financial crisis.

The Federal Reserve will begin a two-day meeting on interest-rate policy Tuesday, and the wide expectation is for it to keep the accelerator floored on its stimulus for the economy and markets. It has said it plans to keep interest rates low even if inflation rises above its 2% target.

In other Tuesday trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 23 cents to $52.54 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 50 cents to $52.77 per barrel on Monday.

Brent crude, the international standard, shed 24 cents to $55.44 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar strengthened to 103.80 Japanese yen from 103.76 yen late Monday. The euro dropped to $1.2130 from $1.2141.

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