European Shares Finish 2020 in a Slump
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On Thursday, European shares fell as rising coronavirus cases and lockdowns overshadowed the optimism surrounding the rollout of the vaccines in the upcoming year, while the dollar retreated to a two-and-a-half-year low. Trading volumes remained on the thin side, with the most prominent European markets closed and a lot of traders on break for New Year’s Eve. Where the markets were open, the traders failed to follow the high of their Asian peers. There was a 1.7% fall in the UK’s FTSE and a 0.4% decline in France’s CAC 40. Likewise, there was a 0.15% fall in US Stock futures, which highlighted a weaker opening for Wall Street.
As far as the MSCI World Index is concerned, it remained down for the day as losses in Europe overshadowed the gains in Asia. The index is on course for a 14% increase in 2020, after it had surged by more than 60% from the lows it had hit in March. The market slump had been inducted by the pandemic, but there was a rebound thanks to economic stimulus. However, most European markets seemed to have underperformed as opposed to those in Asia and the United States, where they have reached a series of record highs.
On Thursday, the pan-European STOXX 600 remained closed, but it had recorded a drop of 3.8% in this year, as a rapid increase in coronavirus infections and concerns about Brexit ended up curbing improved market sentiment. Still, regardless of the increasing unemployment and rise in coronavirus cases, investors are betting on an economic rebound to occur after the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, spurred by plentiful monetary and fiscal cash. Market analysts said that growth has slowed down once again with the turn of the year and recovery is going to face some resistance in the next few quarters, but 2021 would still turn out to be better led by a stronger United States.
In 2020, the biggest developments in the market include a sharp drop in the value of the dollar. On Thursday, it had hit its lowest level since April 2018 and has delivered its worst annual performance after 2017, as it has dropped by 7.2% against a basket of other major currencies. Rival currencies have benefitted from the dollar’s weakness, which has been pushed by bets that interest rates will be kept low by the Federal Reserve. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been the euro, which has gone up by 10% this year, and was trading above the $1.23 mark.
As far as Asian gains are concerned, Chinese blue-chips were leading the way after a trade deal with the European Union was announced. On Thursday, official data was also released highlighting increasing activity in China’s factory and service sector in December. There was not much movement in the markets at the announcement that the first COVID-19 vaccine had been approved in China for public use. Analysts said that the limited impact on the yuan and stocks indicated that markets had now become immune to any such news.
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