World shares turn lower on pandemic concerns, ahead of Fed
Stock markets are down Wednesday as investors focus on the Federal Reserve's policy meeting and the outlook for the economy as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
European indexes lost early gains after a mixed session in Asia. In the US, futures are down 0.8% for both the Dow and the S&P 500.
The Fed is expected to keep its extremely supportive policy stance unchanged given the slow progress in vanquishing the pandemic, analysts said.
Markets have meandered since last week as investors weighed solid corporate earnings results against renewed worries that troubles with Covid-19 vaccine rollouts and the spread of new variants of coronavirus might delay a recovery from the pandemic.
With the virus spreading like “wildfire" in parts of the world, the first half of the year might be “lost," Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary. “Some are even concerned that vaccines may not prove useful enough to eradicate the virus. And these concerns will continue to linger over markets like a dark cloud until vaccine distributions get ironed out, and a definitive drop in contagion levels can thoroughly support the vaccine efficacy results."
The reality that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 billion stimulus package won’t be “rubber stamped” by the US Senate is also weighing on sentiment, Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index added 0.3% to 28,635.21, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.3% to 29,297.53. The Kospi in South Korea sank 0.6% to 3,122.56, while the Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1% higher to 3,573.34. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7% to 6,780.60.
Germany's DAX fell 1.7% to 13,635, France's CAC 40 dropped 1.3% to 5,454. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.9% to 6,594.
This is the busiest week so far of quarterly earnings reporting season for U.S. companies.
More than 100 companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to tell investors this week how they fared during the last three months of 2020. As a whole, analysts expect S&P 500 companies to say their fourth-quarter profit fell 5% from a year earlier. That’s a milder drop than the 9.4% they were forecasting earlier this month, according to FactSet.
The fate of Biden's plan to send $1,400 to most Americans and deliver other support for the economy remains uncertain given the slim majority of the Democrats in the Senate. But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats are prepared to push ahead with the relief package, even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation without Republicans.
In other trading, benchmark US crude oil dropped 1 cent to $52.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 16 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 9 cents to $55.73 per barrel.
The dollar was trading at 103.83 Japanese yen, up from 103.62 yen late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.2115 from $1.2163.