Stocks slip as virus restrictions tighten; sterling weakens

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a screen displaying a graph showing recent Nikkei share average outside a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a screen displaying a graph showing recent Nikkei share average outside a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

December 7, 2020

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks on global indexes mostly eased on Monday as worries escalated over increasing COVID-19 cases and economic restrictions, while sterling slumped as Britain and the European Union have yet to narrow their differences on a trade deal.

On Wall Street, the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 slipped 0.2%, retreating from its recent record high, but the Nasdaq posted a record closing high as investors snapped up mega-cap growth stocks.

Authorities in California, the most populous U.S. state, on Monday compelled much of the state to close shop and stay at home the day after it reported a record 30,000-plus new coronavirus cases.

Investor eyes also continue to be on negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress for approval of further coronavirus relief.

“It is just kind of a waiting game, we are waiting to see if there is going to be any stimulus attached to this funding bill,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird.

Expectations of a U.S. stimulus aid package gathered pace after weak payrolls data on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 148.47 points, or 0.49%, to 30,069.79, the S&P 500 lost 7.16 points, or 0.19%, to 3,691.96 and the Nasdaq Composite added 55.71 points, or 0.45%, to 12,519.95.

Large-cap growth stocks, which had underperformed value stocks in recent weeks as investors looked to names likely to benefit from a reopened economy, edged up while value declined.

The MSCI world equity index < .MIWD00000PUS>, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was down 0.1%, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index ended down 0.3%.

British and EU leaders will meet face-to-face to try to seal a post-Brexit trade deal after failing again to narrow their differences on Monday.

That could raise the chance of a disorderly parting of ways at the end of the month.

Sterling fell in a sentiment reversal from Friday when the British currency rose to a 19-month high against the dollar.

Sterling was last trading at $1.34, down 0.51% on the day.

Investors also await an EU summit starting on Thursday to break an impasse over a 1.8 trillion-euro coronavirus aid package, as well as the last European Central Bank policy meeting of the year on the same day.

In the bond market, yields on most U.S. Treasuries fell as rising coronavirus caseloads drove investors to buy the safe-haven securities.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 13/32 in price to yield 0.93%, from 0.97% late on Friday.

Oil prices slipped, with traders weighing the positive impact from an OPEC+ deal on production against increasing coronavirus cases.

Brent crude fell 46 cents, or 0.9%, to settle at $48.79 a barrel. U.S. crude fell 50 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $45.76 a barrel. Spot gold prices gained.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; Additional reporting Chuck Mikolajczak, Gertude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Stephanie Kelly in New York and Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Matthew Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall)

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