Lingering concerns over a new variant of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom weighed on a gauge of global equities and sent the euro, pound and Treasury yields lower.
The benchmark US S&P 500 stock index hovered near flat in choppy trade on Tuesday, despite the US Congress’s passage of an $US892 billion ($A1.2 trillion) coronavirus aid package.
Some investors said that the fiscal stimulus had already been priced into US equities, while other observers considered the package underwhelming.
“There were probably hopes that there would be something bigger,” said Michael Purves, chief executive of Tallbacken Capital Advisors. “There’s a good chance the economy will need another package.”
Weak US economic data, including existing home sales and an index of consumer confidence, also stymied stocks while lending a boost to the dollar.
The sluggishness in US stocks offset a rebound in European stocks, which had been pummelled on Monday as fresh coronavirus concerns mounted. Progress toward a trade deal between the European Union and the UK helped lift the pan-European STOXX index, which ended 1.18 per cent higher.
The STOXX logged its biggest one-day percentage gain in more than five weeks.
As a result of the performance in US stocks, MSCI’s index of global stocks slipped. It was last down 0.06 per cent.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 130.78 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 30,085.67, the S&P 500 lost 0.94 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 3,693.98 and the Nasdaq Composite added 60.41 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 12,802.92.
US Treasury yields also fell as investors weighed the likelihood of increased lockdowns in response to the new COVID-19 variant. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes last rose 7/32 in price to yield 0.9197 per cent, from 0.941 per cent late on Monday.
Among currencies, the euro and the pound dropped, in part on expectations that such restrictions could weaken Europe’s economic outlook.
On Monday, countries across the world shut their borders to Britain because of fears over the new variant.
The euro was last down 0.66 per cent to $1.2161, while the pound was last trading at $1.3352, down 0.88 per cent.
Analysts remained pessimistic on the pound’s prospects, even after reports of progress in Brexit trade talks.
MUFG said in a note to clients it expected London and Brussels would strike a last-minute deal, but added: “Even if a trade deal is reached, upside potential for the pound will now be dampened by recent negative COVID developments in the UK.”
The risk-off sentiment in currency markets propped up the dollar index, which rose 0.591 per cent. Even so, the index was still on course for a third consecutive quarterly loss.
Oil markets also reflected sustained worries over the new coronavirus variant. Both Brent and US crude fell more than 1 per cent.
Still, some investors maintained hope for a strong economic recovery in 2021, given expectations that vaccines would be effective against the new variant of COVID-19.
The new mutation “is a bump in the road, but that road is still leading to a much stronger recovery in the second half of next year,” said Hugh Gimber, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.