US stocks slide as stimulus deadline looms

US stocks slid for the fourth time in the past five days as coronavirus cases continued to rise and a deadline on US stimulus talks loomed.

The benchmark S&P 500 was 1.6 per cent lower in the final hour of trading on Monday, with roughly nine of every 10 stocks in the index down on the day. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 1.6 per cent.

In Europe, the continent-wide Stoxx 600 closed down 0.3 per cent, while bourses in London, Frankfurt and Milan all ended the day lower.

The declines came as Covid-19 cases increased in the US and Europe. In recent days Belgium has imposed new restrictions on bars and restaurants and Wales has rolled out a two-week national lockdown from Friday.

“As the second wave of Covid-19 infections spreads across the west, some investors may find it hard to look beyond rising cases and fresh localised lockdowns to consider an economic recovery,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Traders weighed the deteriorating pandemic situation against upbeat growth data from China and Friday’s news that drugmaker Pfizer would apply in November for emergency US approval of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

Investors also awaited news on the progress of a US fiscal stimulus package. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said on Sunday she was “hopeful” a deal could be agreed before November’s presidential election, although she stressed it had to be approved within the next 48 hours to pass in time.

Treasuries weakened alongside the stock market declines, with the yield on the 10-year note rising 1 basis point to 0.76 per cent. Yields rise when bond prices fall.

The dollar fell against the euro and British pound. Helping to lift sterling, which was up 0.2 per cent to $1.295, was a tweet from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, who said Brussels “remains available to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects”.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, slipped 0.7 per cent to settle at $42.62 a barrel.

Data released by China pointed to its gross domestic product growing 4.9 per cent year on year in the third quarter, below expectations for 5.2 per cent but ahead of a 3.2 per cent increase in the second quarter.

“The latest encouraging economic data from China . . . gives us an insight into the recovery in store when a vaccine is developed and the outbreak is contained,” Mr Haefele said.

China’s CSI 300 fell 0.8 per cent but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Tokyo’s Topix rose 0.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

Additional reporting by Naomi Rovnick in London and Eric Platt in New York

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