Oil hits five-month lows, Asian shares extend losses on renewed virus fears

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FILE PHOTO: Men wearing protective face masks chat in front of a screen displaying Nikkei share average and world stock indexes, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Men wearing protective face masks chat in front of a screen displaying Nikkei share average and world stock indexes outside a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

November 2, 2020

By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares bounced off one-month lows on Monday on solid data from China showing factory activity expanded at its fastest pace in a decade while oil prices skidded as many Western countries slid back into coronavirus-driven lockdowns.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> climbed 0.5% to 573.04, as China’s Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index offered hope the region’s success in containing the coronavirus could spare it the economic pain being inflicted on Europe and the United States.

All major indexes except New Zealand were up on Monday.

Australian shares <.AXJO> rose 0.4%.

Chinese shares were higher with the blue-chip CSI300 <.CSI300> rising 0.8% with the country’s vast industrial sector steadily returning to levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic paralysed huge swathes of the economy.

Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> jumped 1.5%.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 <ESc1> added 0.1%, with investor focus turning to the U.S. Presidential elections on Tuesday.

The global outlook is dimming as many Western countries battle still rising COVID-19 infections and go back into virus lockdowns.

Global coronavirus cases surpassed 500,000 last week with Europe crossing the bleak milestone of 10 million total infections. The United Kingdom is grappling with more than 20,000 new cases a day while a record surge of U.S. cases is killing up to 1,000 people a day.

Fresh coronavirus-induced lockdowns have raised concerns over the outlook for fuel consumption, sending Brent crude <LCOC1> to a low of $35.74 per barrel, a level not seen since late May. U.S. crude went as low as $33.64. [O/R]

Underwhelming outlooks and results from some of Wall Street’s largest companies last week, including Apple <AAPL.O> and Facebook <FB.O>, further soured the mood and dragged U.S. stocks lower last week. [.N]

“Markets are looking ahead of Q4 and early 2021 where the growth outlook looks clouded given the move to stricter lockdowns in Europe,” Perpetual analysts wrote in a note.

They said a -1% hit to European growth would send global gross domestic product down by 0.5% over the subsequent 12 months.

“The key question here is how long are the lockdowns needed to get the virus under control.”

Ahead of the last campaign weekend, Republican President Donald Trump trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national opinion polls partly because of widespread disapproval of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.

Opinion polls in the most competitive states that will decide the election have shown a closer race, still favouring Biden.

In currencies, the risk-sensitive Australian dollar <AUD=D3> slipped 0.4% to go below 70 U.S. cents for the first time since July. It was last at $0.7018.

The Japanese yen <JPY=> was flat at 104.66 per dollar, while the British pound <GBP=> was last a shade weaker at $1.2931. The euro <EUR=> was barely changed at $1.1640.

That left the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of peers, flat at 94.07. <=USD>

A risk-on revival after the U.S. election could however see the dollar resume its slide from the March highs, analysts said.

JPMorgan analysts said the market likely views a Biden win as “short-term neutral” but “long-term negative” as his expected tax policy outweighs the benefits from a large stimulus package.

“SPX may have upside to ~3400, but it would have larger downside depending on the details of the package, potentially to ~2,500,” they added.

On Friday, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 1.21% to close at 3,269.96. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 2.45% while the Dow <.DJI> fell 0.6%.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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