AFP, Reuters London
European stock markets steadied yesterday amid doubts over the passage of US President-elect Joe Biden’s flagship stimulus policy.
Nearing the half-way mark, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 0.3%, Paris flatlined and Frankfurt added 0.2%. Stocks as measured by the STOXX 600 index traded 0.1% lower as of 1134 GMT, after failed merger talks between French retailer Carrefour and Alimentation Couche-Tard.
Asian stocks mostly closed lower following a recent rally, though Hong Kong and Shanghai rose on data showing China’s economy expanded a forecast-beating 2.3% last year.
While the reading was the weakest in four decades, it showed growth was picking up again after a devastating start to 2020 as swathes of the country were shut down to contain the deadly coronavirus.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 closed 1.0% down at 28,242.21 points, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ended 1.0% up at 28,862.77 points and Shanghai’s Composite finished 0.8% up at 3,596.22 points.
MSCI’S All Country World Index, which tracks stocks across 49 countries, fell 0.1%, down for a second session after hitting record highs only last week.
E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 traded flat, though Wall Street remained closed yesterday for a holiday.
The dollar traded mixed, Bitcoin held steady and oil prices declined, while most US markets were shut for Martin Luther King Jr Day.
Focus is turning to Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday and hopes that his massive spending plan can get through Congress.
“European markets have stumbled into a new week, with Biden’s stimulus promises doing little to help sentiment given doubts over just how much of that package will be approved in Congress,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online traders IG.
“With the US markets closed for Martin Luther King day, today provides a gentle entry into a week that will be dominated by the US.
“While US trading activity will minimised today, speculation over whether Biden will be able to garner enough support to pass his full stimulus package remain a key concern for markets,” Mahony added.
While broadly welcomed on trading floors, Biden’s $1.9tn stimulus proposal was unable to fuel fresh gains with the spending spree largely priced in.
Concern about a frightening spike in new virus cases was also keeping a lid on buying sentiment as governments are forced to impose fresh lockdowns while battling to roll out vaccines.
On the corporate front, shares in Carrefour tanked 5.5% to €15.69 after Canadian convenience store chain Couche-Tard dropped a mega takeover bid.
Elsewhere, newly-created European carmaker Stellantis motored its way Monday onto the Paris and Milan stock exchanges.
Stellantis — created by the merger of France’s PSA and US-Italian rival Fiat Chrysler — is the world’s fourth-biggest automaker by volume.
It’s brands include Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
On Monday, its shares gained 4.41% to €13.44 in Paris in midday trades, and were 6.87% higher at €13.43 in Milan.
The group will make its New York stock market debut today.
Gold prices gained 0.4% to $1,833 an ounce, compared to its January top of $1,959.
Crude oil prices ran into profit-taking on worries the spread of increasingly tight lockdowns globally would hurt demand, a fall that also dragged the Russian rouble lower by 1.1%.
Brent crude futures were down 0.1% at $55.60 a barrel, while US crude gained 0.1% to $52.43.
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