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European shares lower after vaccine shots dull COVID economic pain

12/03/2020 | 04:48am EST

* European shares soft as vaccine advances digested

* Euro zone economic data highlights COVID pain

* U.S. stimulus package, Brexit trade talks eyed

* U.S. dollar hits fresh 2 1/2-year lows

LONDON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - European shares opened lower on Thursday after gains spurred by advances in vaccines to fight COVID-19, but data across Europe underscored the economic damage still being caused by the pandemic.

Markets were keeping an eye on talks between Britain and the European Union on a trade deal, with less than a month to go before the UK's full departure from the EU.

Global stocks reached record highs, sending the dollar lower as investor appetite for riskier assets was whetted by news that Britain would start rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine next week, lifting prospects for economic recovery.

The dollar index slipped to a two-and-a-half-year low of 90.948 on Thursday and was last at 90.968. The MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe hit another record high.

"The UK stole a march on the rest of Europe and we had a little bit of a feel-good factor yesterday. I am a lot more optimistic about equity markets than I was a month ago," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

The STOXX index of European companies was flat, dragged down by a 0.2% drop in Frankfurt and Paris blue chips. The FTSE 100 hit June highs.

Investors hope that a fresh round of weak economic data in Europe and the United States will finally persuade policymakers to agree the stimulus packages that have so far eluded them.

There is still no deal yet in the U.S. Congress on a $908 billion boost to the world's biggest economy, and the EU has yet to nail down an economic package agreed in principle as the euro zone economy struggles.

The IHS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for November in Spain shrank to 39.5 - below the 50 level separating growth from contraction. Italy's services contracted for a fourth month running, with the IHS Markit Business Activity Index for services dropping to 39.4.

CMC's Hewson said such figures were "abysmal" and likely to remain below 45 until January.

A Reuters polls forecast the euro zone economy would shrink again this quarter as renewed lockdown measures stifled activity, with the economy taking two years to regain pre-crisis levels.

Euro zone government bonds held ground on Thursday with Germany's 10-year bund yield down about 1 basis point to -0.53%.


Britain's education minister, Gavin Williamson, said good progress was being made in talks with the European Union on a trade deal as the Brexit deadline approaches. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he believed there was a good chance of a deal within days.

Sterling clung on to $1.34 thanks to broad dollar weakness, but derivative markets were flashing red on doubts that Britain can strike a Brexit trade deal with the EU before the UK's exit from the single market on Dec. 31.

Asian shares were mixed on Thursday after a choppy day of Wall Street trade, thanks in part to a disappointing U.S. jobs report.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is holding its advisory committee meeting next week, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the state's first vaccine delivery, enough for 170,000 residents, is expected on Dec. 15.

Hopes that the pandemic will finally be brought under control sparked a risk-on rally in currency markets with the Australian and New Zealand dollars advancing.

"Currency investors are taking on more risk following the latest vaccine breakthroughs, options show," Morgan Stanley said in a note.

E-Mini futures for S&P500 were flat.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei was unchanged while South Korea's KOSPI and Australia's benchmark index were about 0.4% higher each. Chinese shares opened lower, with the blue-chip CSI300 index off 0.2%. New Zealand shares were weaker, too.

Overnight, Wall Street eventually ended higher. The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 gained 0.2%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was little changed moved.

In commodities, oil prices slipped on Thursday as producers including Saudi Arabia and Russia locked horns over the need to extend record production cuts set in place in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was down 9 cents at $48.16 a barrel while U.S. light crude eased 14 cents to $45.14.

Gold was up at $1,832.6 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Swati Pandey in Sydney and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; editing by Stephen Coates, Larry King)

© Reuters 2020
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
CMC MARKETS PLC -5.38% 387 Delayed Quote.-1.02%
DJ INDUSTRIAL -0.57% 30996.98 Delayed Quote.1.86%
EURO / BRITISH POUND (EUR/GBP) 0.02% 0.8893 Delayed Quote.-0.82%
EURO / US DOLLAR (EUR/USD) -0.02% 1.21659 Delayed Quote.-0.41%
IHS MARKIT LTD. -0.67% 88.09 Delayed Quote.-1.94%
KOSPI COMPOSITE INDEX 0.12% 3152.13 Real-time Quote.9.68%
MORGAN STANLEY -0.76% 74.13 Delayed Quote.8.17%
MSCI UNITED KINGDOM (STRD, UHD) -0.69% 1069.389 Real-time Quote.4.45%
NASDAQ 100 -0.29% 13366.396971 Delayed Quote.3.71%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.09% 13543.061633 Delayed Quote.4.99%
NIKKEI 225 -0.44% 28631.45 Real-time Quote.4.33%
S&P 500 -0.30% 3841.47 Delayed Quote.2.27%
US DOLLAR / RUSSIAN ROUBLE (USD/RUB) 0.21% 75.335 Delayed Quote.0.19%
WTI 0.00% 52.063 Delayed Quote.10.00%
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