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Global stocks plunge on virus restrictions, US jobs data

·3-min read
Markets are taking fright as the health crisis shows no sign of ending, with new restrictions threatening to curtail economic activity
Markets are taking fright as the health crisis shows no sign of ending, with new restrictions threatening to curtail economic activity

Global stock markets plunged Thursday, with investor sentiment hammered by fears that tighter coronavirus restrictions could derail the tentative economic recovery.

In London, equities closed 1.7 percent lower after the British government announced that the capital faces more stringent coronavirus restrictions as case numbers rise. 

Paris suffered a drop of more than 2.0 percent after the French government announced a curfew for the capital and eight other cities -- covering almost a third of the country's population -- for as long as six weeks.

And Frankfurt stocks lost 2.5 percent after Germany also ramped up Covid-19 restrictions, while the EU's disease control agency labeled more than half of the bloc's member states as red zones in a new map to guide countries' decisions on travel restrictions.

"Dealers are dumping stocks for fear that economic activity will drop off because of the tighter restrictions in various parts of Europe," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

"The latest restrictions are likely to hamper Europe's economic recovery -- which was already running out of steam before the health woes ramped up again."

Across the Atlantic, the Dow fell 0.1 percent and the tech heavy Nasdaq slumped half a percentage point amid a slew of unwelcome news.

Labor Department data showed new applications for US jobless benefits rose to a seven-week high of 898,000 last week, an increase of 53,000.

That was the sharpest rise in seasonally-adjusted initial claims in two months as the United States attempts to recover from mass layoffs caused by virus-related business shutdowns earlier this year.

The deadlock over additional US stimulus spending was also set to continue, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying a deal is unlikely before the November 3 election.

Asian markets had earlier also closed well deep in the red.

- Deadlock everywhere -

The pound fell as EU leaders met to discuss post-Brexit trade talks, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging them to give ground or see Britain walk away with no deal, while oil prices also struggled.

Equities have been benefiting in recent weeks from investors' belief Republicans and Democrats will eventually reach a deal on another package of measures to support the US economy.

But this week's worsening news has taken a toll, with the Dow closing lower the last three sessions.

Analysts said traders are taking comfort from the possibility that Joe Biden and the Democrats will win the presidency and both houses of Congress in the election, paving the way for a bigger stimulus than anything that could be agreed before the vote.

- Key figures around 2015 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.1 percent at 28,494.20 (close) 

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,483.34 (close) 

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.5 percent at 11,713.87 (close) 

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.7 percent at 5,832.52 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 2.5 percent at 12,703.75 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 2.1 percent at 4,837.35 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 2.6 percent at 3,192.69 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 23,507.23 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 2.1 percent at 24,158.54 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,332.18 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1702 from $1.1746 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2896 from $1.3012

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.42 yen from 105.17 yen

Euro/pound: UP at 90.73 pence from 90.27 pence

West Texas Intermediate: FLAT percent at $41.03 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $43.20