World shares down from record highs as COVID-19 cases top 90 million

Asian shares took a breather on Monday while Treasury yields were at 10-month highs as “trillions” in new U.S. fiscal stimulus plans were set to be unveiled this week, stoking a global reflation trade.

LONDON: World shares slipped from record highs on Monday as caution over rising coronavirus cases saw some profit-taking from investors, while Treasury yields remained close to 10-month highs, indicating expectations for global reflation from anticipated U.S. fiscal stimulus.

Worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 90 million on Monday, according to Reuters tally.

European shares dipped in early trading, with rising coronavirus cases across the continent and China dragging down commodity stocks. Germany’s DAX lost 0.75per cent, Britain’s FTSE 100, Italy’s FTSE MIB, and France’s CAC 40 fell about half a percent each, and Spain’s IBEX fell 0.1per cent.

With Asian stock markets also lower, MSCI’s All Country World index, which tracks stocks across 49 countries, was down 0.2per cent, just off Friday’s record high.

Futures for the S&P 500 slipped 0.6per cent from record highs, after gaining 1.8per cent last week. EUROSTOXX 50 futures eased 0.1per cent and FTSE futures were flat.

“There was an awful lot of optimism about prospects for stimulus with the Biden administration winning those two Georgia Senate seats,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets in London, noting Friday’s record highs.

“Friday’s payrolls report was disappointing, underscoring the need for more significant fiscal response. But as we head into week two (of the new year), I think some of that optimism has been tempered a little bit with profit-taking.”

In Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.1per cent, having surged 5per cent last week to record highs. Japan’s Nikkei was on holiday after closing at a 30-year high on Friday.

South Korea reversed an early jump to fall 0.1per cent, and Chinese blue chips fell 1per cent.

Last week, Wall Street bankers warned of toppy stock markets and a looming retreat after exuberance from unprecedented economic stimulus had led to “frothy” asset prices.

“I think there’s a perception perhaps markets are getting slightly ahead of themselves,” Hewson said.

Mark Haefele, chief investment officer, at UBS Global Wealth Management said in a note to clients that he doesn’t see valuations as a barrier for the equity rally to continue, “especially against the backdrop of continued policy stimulus and the rollout of vaccines.”

Longer-term Treasury yields were at their highest since March after Friday’s weak jobs report fanned speculation of more U.S. fiscal stimulus now that the Democrats have control of the government.

President-elect Joe Biden is due to announce plans for “trillions” in new relief bills this week, much of which will be paid for by increased borrowing.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve is sounding content to put the onus on fiscal policy. Vice Chair Richard Clarida said there would be no change soon to the US$120 billion of debt the Fed is buying each month.

With the Fed reluctant to purchase more longer-dated bonds, 10-year Treasury yields jumped almost 20 basis points last week to 1.12per cent, the biggest weekly rise since June.

Treasury futures lost another 3 ticks early Monday.

Mark Cabana at BofA warned stimulus could further pressure the dollar and cause Fed tapering to begin later this year.

“An early Fed taper creates upside risks to our year-end 1.5per cent 10-year Treasury target and supports our longer-term expectations for neutral rates moving towards 3per cent,” he said in a note to clients.

The poor payrolls report will heighten interest in U.S. data on inflation, retail sales and consumer sentiment.

Earnings will also be in focus as JP Morgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are among the first companies to release fourth-quarter results on Jan. 15.

The climb in yields in turn offered some support to the dollar, which had edged up to 90.338 against a basket of currencies from last week’s low of 89.206.

The euro pulled back to US$1.2185 from a recent top of US$1.2349, breaking support around US$1.2190. The dollar also gained to 104.18 yen from a trough of 102.57 hit last week.

The sudden lift in bond yields undermined gold, which pays no interest, and it fell back 1.1per cent to US$1,828 an ounce from its recent peak of US$1,959.

Oil prices ran into profit-taking after reaching their highest in nearly a year on Friday, gaining 8per cent on the week after Saudi Arabia pledged to cut output.

Brent crude futures dipped 0.7per cent to US$55.56. U.S. crude futures lost 0.3per cent to US$52.10 a barrel.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; editing by Larry King)