Asian stocks adrift as vaccine rally falters
Asian stocks struggled to extend the week’s rally on Wednesday and gold and bonds firmed as a skeptical press report dented some hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine and concerns about bumps in the global recovery from the pandemic returned.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat. The risk-sensitive Australian dollar retreated from an overnight two-month high and safe-haven demand drove U.S. Treasury yields back under 0.7%.
The moves follow a downbeat end to the day on Wall Street, after a report from medical news website STAT cast doubt over positive early results from a Moderna Inc COVID-19 vaccine trial. The report said the results, which had rallied global stocks this week, lacked detail.
Chinese stocks began the day a little lower and Hong Kong’s slipped 0.1%. Australia’s benchmark was flat while a soft yen helped the Nikkei 0.7% higher.
The market is a little bit directionless from here on, it certainly feels like we will see a lot more poor economic data.
Two-thirds of 223 fund managers surveyed by Bank of America reckon recent gains are a bear-market rally.
S&P 500 futures were last up 0.5% after wobbling around flat through the morning. Oil was steady and benchmark 10-year yields on U.S. Treasuries dipped 1.5 basis points to 0.6964%. Yields fall when prices rise.
Gold rose slightly to $1,750.19 per ounce.
Doubts about the outlook held back commodity prices from further gains, as more bad news poured forth.
Japanese business confidence slumped to a decade low as the economy entered a recession while Australian retail sales suffered their steepest ever dive in April. British jobless claims are at their highest in 20 years.
And the U.S. economy won’t recover its lost ground until sometime after next year, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.
Brent crude futures steadied at $34.73 per barrel, having rallied nearly 7% this week, and U.S. crude held at $31.97 a barrel.
In currency markets, the euro remained supported in the afterglow of a Franco-German proposal for a common relief fund – a possible way through tensions between European Union members. It inched up to $1.0938.
Other majors steadied, while the Aussie and kiwi battled, mostly without success, to break out of the ranges that have held them for months.