World shares slip on doubts over COVID vaccines, outbreaks

World stocks fell back on Thursday after a comeback by big technology shares that have thrived during the pandemic.

Excitement over news of potentially effective vaccines for COVID-19 has been tempered by concerns over the logistical challenges of ensuring access to billions of people. Meanwhile, caseloads are rising, leading governments to re-instate restrictions on business and other activities to battle the pandemic.

“Vaccine trades reversed to give way to ‘stay home’ trades,” as shares of technology companies and others that do well when people stay home and work remotely rallied, Mizuho Bank said in a commentary. But it added, “Fact of the matter is, progress on vaccine development is at worst two steps forward one step back, and not one step forward and two steps back on a sustained basis.”

Germany’s DAX lost 1% to 13,080 and the CAC 40 in Paris declined 1.2% to 5,379. In Britain, the FTSE 100 gave up 0.6% to 6,341 after new data showed that the economy slowed in September following strong growth in the summer. That bodes ill for the autumn, when new restrictions on businesses were imposed.

On Wall Street, the future for the S&P 500 fell 0.7% while the contract for the Dow industrials lost 0.4%.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.7% to 25,520.88 despite a report that machinery orders fell in September, suggesting weakness in corporate investment. The benchmark has been trading near 30-year highs despite a resurgence of COVID-19 cases that has officials urging people to stay home over the holidays.

The mood was more somber elsewhere in the region.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.2% to 26,169.38 and the Shanghai Composite index declined 0.1% to 3,338.68. In Seoul, the Kospi shed 0.4% to 2,475.62. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.5% to 6418.20.

Chinese technology shares have taken a beating this week, losing about $290 billion in market capitalization after the government issued new proposed anti-trust regulations for digital industries, said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.1% lower, to 29,397.63, falling back on news that New York would put restrictions on bars, restaurants and gyms as COVID-19 infections rose in the state.

The S&P 500 rose 0.8%, to 3,572.66 and is just 8 points below the record high it set in September. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite rose 2%, to 11,786.43.

Investors have embraced hopes that one or more coronavirus vaccines could help corral the virus by the second half of next year, encouraging people to return to life as it was before the pandemic.

All that economic activity would come on top of the tremendous aid that the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world are pumping into the economy through very low interest rates and massive purchases of bonds. Hope also remains that the U.S. government may eventually deliver some form of support for the economy, though its total size would likely be smaller than if Democrats had swept this month’s elections.

Wall Street strategists have been raising their forecasts for stock prices on expectations that political control of Washington will remain split between the parties. Republicans look set to keep the Senate, as long as runoff elections go their way in Georgia in January, while Democrats will hold the House of Representatives.

Democrat Joe Biden has clinched enough electoral votes to win the White House, clearing some of the uncertainty that weighed on the market through the vicious campaign. Investors are looking past President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede and assuming that a split Washington under Biden could keep tax rates low while offering more steady and predictable policies.

In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped 30 cents to $41.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It climbed 9 cents to $41.45 on Wednesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, fell 25 cents to $43.55 per barrel.

The dollar weakened to 105.34 Japanese yen from 105.42 yen. The euro climbed to $1.1800 from $1.1776.

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