Stock markets pause after surge
US stock markets steadied while most European indices slid on Wednesday after surging the previous session on easing concerns over financial fallout from the coronavirus variant Omicron.
Asian equities built on recent strong gains.
“The overall outlook for equities remains firmly positive,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.
“The previous three sessions put markets firmly back on the front foot, with Omicron concerns almost entirely evaporating.”
World stocks and oil had tanked on November 26 when news of the new variant first flashed across traders’ screens.
After a rollercoaster ride, investors are now optimistic over the outlook in the run-up to Christmas.
Carol Kong, a strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said the initial evidence about Omicron “appears to have calmed financial markets, for now, as evidenced by the recovery in risk assets”.
“But we caution against drawing conclusions from these early reports.”
Patrick J. O’Hare at Briefing.com said the emerging information about the Omicron variant is likely to turn the market’s focus back to the shift in monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve.
“After all, if Omicron isn’t going to be the pernicious force some first thought it could be, then economic activity should continue to run at a pretty healthy recovery pace that makes it clear the Fed’s policy rate should not be hanging out much longer at the zero bound,” he said.
– China property sector jitters –
Fears over fallout from China’s debt-hobbled property sector dented sentiment however.
In Hong Kong, Chinese real estate company Kaisa suspended trading just before the opening bell, “pending the release by the company of an announcement containing inside information”, according to a filing with the exchange.
Kaisa, China’s 27th-largest property firm as well as one of its most indebted, became the latest company to spook investors when it announced on Friday that it had failed in a bid for a debt swap that would buy it crucial time.
China’s real estate sector — a key growth driver in the world’s second-largest economy — has cooled in recent months after Beijing tightened home-buying rules and launched a regulatory assault on speculation.
The moves have created headaches for several major developers, notably China Evergrande, the country’s second-largest and which is billions of dollars in debt.
On Tuesday, Evergrande missed a deadline to repay some of its overseas creditors, raising the prospect of a default as it prepares for a government-backed restructuring.
“A few months ago, Evergrande’s failure to make bond repayments spooked global markets and led to speculation of a potential crisis in China’s property and financial system,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
“Now it seems as if markets have just accepted that Evergrande could collapse and there is no panic.”
– Key figures around 1430 GMT –
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,348.55 points
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.6 percent at 4,251.59
New York – Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 35,785.07
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.4 percent at 28,860.62 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.1 percent at 23,996.87 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,637.57 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1306 from $1.1281
Dollar/yen: UP at 113.87 yen from 113.47 yen
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3211 from $1.3248
Euro/pound: UP at 85.60 pence from 85.15 pence
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at $75.39 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.3 percent at $71.84 per barrel