Global shares fell for the fifth straight day and the dollar remained firm in a flight to safety on Friday as rising coronavirus cases compounded concerns over Chinese growth and the outlook for U.S. stimulus.
The swirling macro currents have weighed on sentiment all week, setting a cautious tone ahead of a meeting of U.S. central bankers at Jackson Hole next week, with markets watching for any sign of monetary tightening in the world’s biggest economy.
“The Delta variant remains the biggest worry for investors right now, and along with the question of waning vaccine efficacy has made the risks to the outlook much more pronounced relative to just a few months ago,” Deutsche Bank analyst Henry Allen said in a note to clients.
“However, nervousness about possible tapering by the Fed ahead of next week’s Jackson Hole speech by Chair Powell, along with a potential Chinese growth slowdown have further played on investors’ minds, and brought the narrative a long way from the reflation hopes many had back in Q1.”
The MSCI World Index, a broad gauge of global shares, was down 0.2% in early European deals, on course for its biggest weekly fall since February as small gains in Europe’s top markets failed to make up for Asian losses overnight.
U.S. stock futures , meanwhile, pointed to Wall Street opening down 0.3%-0.5%.
Asian shares finished the week heading for their lowest close since November, with the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down 1% and 4.8% weaker on the week, its worst week since February.
The Hong Kong benchmark (.HSI) touched its lowest this year, and was last down 1.9% while Chinese blue chips (.CSI300) fell 1.9% with markets spooked by slowing Chinese growth and regulatory intervention across a range of sectors.
“There are several reasons for the declines, but the main thing is the ongoing regulatory risk,” said Gary Ng, an economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, pointing as an example to falls in alcohol stocks, which are rumoured to be in the authorities’ sights.
Hong Kong’s embattled tech sub index (.HSTECH) dropped 3.57% as state media said China’s National People’s Congress on Friday officially passed a law designed to protect online user data privacy, which is expected to add more compliance requirements for companies in the country.
Recent regulatory crackdowns have smashed stocks from property to tech to education.
With cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus picking up again across the globe from the United States to Australia, New Zealand and Japan, safety was key and the dollar a chief beneficiary.
The dollar index , which measures its performance against six rivals, rose as high as 93.622 for the first time since early November, while gold also rose, up 0.4% and heading for its second straight week of gains.
U.S. Treasury yields inched lower, with the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes at 1.228% compared with its U.S. close of 1.242%.
Oil prices stabilised after sharp falls earlier in the week. U.S. crude was flat at $63.7 a barrel. Brent crude was down 0.1% at $66.39 per barrel.