March 24, 2023

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On Thursday, oil prices fell and world stocks slipped for the third day in a row, tracking overnight weakness in Wall Street and Asia, as market sentiment was weighed down by widening COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier in the week, the MSCI world index had reached a record high due to positive news about potential coronavirus vaccines. However, investors eventually ended up pulling back as a number of other countries also announced tougher lockdowns and record surges in the infection rates. At 0844 GMT, there was a 0.3% slip in the broad gauge of global equities, while a 0.7% decline could be seen in major index in Europe. 

There was also a decline in oil prices as demand expectations were crimped by virus restrictions. A late sell-off overnight in the US triggered the weak market sentiment, as the S&P 500 closed after a fall of 1.1%, weighed down by the number of coronavirus deaths in the biggest economy in the world, which had surpassed 250,000, bringing about a host of lockdowns. Likewise, there was also somber news incoming from Japan, as a rise in Tokyo’s pandemic alert and a record number of COVID-19 cases caused the Nikkei 225 to go down by 0.4%. 

There was a 0.5% decline in the MSCI’s Asia-Pacific shares index, excluding Japan. Analysts said that the biggest questions that were being asked in the market were whether social restrictions, lockdowns and renewed school closures are enough for derailing the impact of vaccine positives, and the fact that the survival rates seem to be surging along with infection and hospitalization rates. The positive news about the coronavirus vaccine had continued yesterday, after Pfizer Inc. announced that its vaccine effectiveness was at 95% and it would be applying for emergency authorization in the US in the next few days, after a similar announcement was made by rival Moderna.

Moving ahead, Wall Street futures are pointing to a steady opening, with all eyes set on the Federal Reserve for any indications that it could introduce more fiscal stimulus in the economy, something that had been mentioned by two officials yesterday. Investors will also be waiting for US job data that’s expected at 1330 GMT. The dollar had last reached a value of 92.575 against a basket of major currencies, which took it in the black marginally, but just a bit higher than its recent low of 92.129. 

Meanwhile, the euro had declined by 0.1% and it was just a bit shy of its recent peak at $1.1919. However, the sterling remained weaker and went down by 0.5%, after a report about Europe leaders demanding no-deal plans to be published by the European Union, as the deadline for talks about a possible trade deal is drawing nearer. Despite the caution in the equity market, gold traders have continued to take a longer-term view, betting that there will be a quicker economic recovery with COVID-19 vaccines, so the yellow metal ended up hitting a one-week low. Bitcoin also pulled back after yesterday’s high and was trading last at $17,500. 

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