Global equities inch higher, bonds gain as Europe COVID cases rise

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Global equities gained and safe-haven assets such as U.S. Treasuries rallied on Monday as investors weighed rising coronavirus cases in Europe against a break in the recent run-up of bond yields sparked by concerns of higher global inflation.

FILE PHOTO: A child leaps off a bench outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

On an unsettled day for global markets, risk assets such as oil rose alongside safe havens such as Treasuries, while Turkish assets took a beating after a shock weekend decision to replace the country’s hawkish central bank governor.

A third wave of COVID-19 across Europe due to highly contagious coronavirus variants is boosting concerns about another round of economic restrictions, with Paris going into a four-week lockdown late last week.

“The number of new COVID-19 cases is rising rapidly, and an extension of the lockdown (is) inevitable for many European countries. No one will be surprised by such a decision,” said Milan Cutkovic, market analyst at Axi.

“The question is whether investors will remain calm amid the increasing uncertainty. If the vaccination campaign would be running successfully, it would be much easier for market participants to ignore the sharp uptick in new cases.”

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.49%, with slight gains in Europe but a 2.1% decline in Japan’s Nikkei index.

In afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 135.23 points, or 0.41%, to 32,763.2, the S&P 500 gained 31.16 points, or 0.80%, to 3,944.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 182.21 points, or 1.38%, to 13,397.45.

Heavyweight technology stocks sold off last week as the surge in bond yields in recent weeks sparked a flight from richly valued equities.

A host of Federal Reserve officials speak this week, including three appearances by Chair Jerome Powell, providing plenty of opportunity for more volatility in markets.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 15/32 in price to yield 1.6787%, from 1.732% late on Friday.

In currency markets, Turkey’s lira fell 15% to 8.485 against the dollar, its worst plunge since the last Turkish crisis of 2018, before paring losses on calming words from Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan.

“We don’t see any contagion risk to the rest of emerging markets; it’s been shown time and time again that the lira is its own story,” said John Hardy, head of foreign exchange strategy at Saxo Bank.

Turkish sovereign bond yields soared above 18%, hitting a 22-month high.

The dollar index fell 0.354%, with the euro up 0.28% to $1.1936.

Oil prices steadied after a broad sell-off last week as market players remained confident demand would rebound later in the year, despite European coronavirus lockdowns dimming hopes for a quick economic recovery.[O/R]

U.S. crude rose 0.08% to $61.55 per barrel and Brent was at $64.47, down 0.09% on the day.

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