LONDON – Shares were mixed on Tuesday as investors paused to assess how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic could get while waiting for a new earnings season on Wall Street to inject fresh direction.
U.S. bonds remained under pressure, with yields building on their 10-month highs, though not yet at levels that make them more attractive than stocks, analysts said.
Blue chip indices in London, Paris and Frankfurt were little changed in early trading on Tuesday. European shares hit their highest levels in 10 months last week but had eased on Monday.
Oil majors BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total gained as crude prices rose on expectations of a drawdown in U.S. stockpiles.
“It’s a little bit of a pause for reflection after getting off to an absolute flyer this year,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
“The main focus now is how much worse can it get in respect to COVID in the UK and Europe, and is China starting to see evidence of a second wave,” Hewson added.
There was little in the way of major corporate earnings news or key economic data as markets waited for the new earnings season on Wall Street, with banks JPMorgan, Citi and Wells Fargo reporting on Friday.
“The big takeaway from those will be, how much more will they set aside in terms of loan-loss provision, as they were quite heavy in 2020, and how many of the U.S. banks restart buybacks and dividends,” Hewson said.
“I suspect it won’t be as many as people think.”
A selloff in bonds was fuelled by the prospect of more U.S. government stimulus under President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office next week.
Yields were also propped up by markets bringing forward bets on Federal Reserve interest rate hikes to 2023, and a withdrawal or tapering of asset purchases before then.
The yield on benchmark U.S. government 10-year debt, which rises when prices fall, gained 1.6 basis points to 1.149% after hitting a fresh 10-month high of 1.1580%.
S&P 500 futures were 0.14% higher.
The U.S. dollar held its recent gains, helped by the spike in U.S. Treasury yields.
Consolidation was a theme in Asia overnight as well, where MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5% after touching an all-time high on Monday, led by a 2.6% drop in South Korea as investors took some profit from a soaring Kospi.
Drugmakers lifted Japan’s Nikkei to a fresh three-decade high after reports of another effective COVID-19 treatment, though the index eased to be 0.16% lower in the afternoon.
Strong inflows helped Chinese blue chips rise 1.11%.
A resurgent U.S. dollar clung to four days of gains against other major currencies, holding the euro and yen close to multi-week lows.
“We’ve seen a very strong week or so (in equities) and I think the lower moves we are seeing are a bit of profit-taking,” said Chad Padowitz, chief investment officer at Talaria Capital in Melbourne.
Overnight, the Nasdaq led modest losses on Wall Street, falling 1.3% as investors sold tech giants who have taken actions against Trump and his supporters.
Brent crude was up 0.68% at $56.04, while U.S. crude traded at $52.65 per barrel, up 0.4%.
Gold, which has been sold as U.S. yields rise because it pays no interest, steadied at $1,853 an ounce, up 0.5%.