Stocks retreat as virus restrictions increase; sterling weakens
By Caroline Valetkevitch NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks on global indexes eased on Monday as worries escalated over the economy because of increasing COVID-19 cases and restrictions, while sterling slumped as Britain and the European Union made a last-ditch attempt to strike a trade deal. After surging to a fresh all-time high earlier on Monday, the MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was last down 0.2%. The U.S
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks on global indexes eased on Monday as worries escalated over the economy because of increasing COVID-19 cases and restrictions, while sterling slumped as Britain and the European Union made a last-ditch attempt to strike a trade deal.
After surging to a fresh all-time high earlier on Monday, the MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was last down 0.2%. The U.S. benchmark S&P 500 was also lower in afternoon New York trading, retreating from its recent record, while the Nasdaq gained as investors fled to technology shares.
Authorities in California, the most populous state in the United States, on Monday compelled much of the state to close shop and stay at home the day after it reported a record 30,000-plus new coronavirus cases.
"I think what you are seeing today is a focus on the short term with the shutdown," said Christopher Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management in Ohio.
Investor eyes also continue to be on negotiations between U.S. Republicans and Democrats for approval of further coronavirus relief.
Expectations of a U.S. stimulus aid package gathered pace after weak payrolls data on Friday and following a bipartisan proposal on a $908 million package last week that leaders on both sides appeared open to agreeing to.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 199.56 points, or 0.66%, to 30,018.7, the S&P 500 lost 14.07 points, or 0.38%, to 3,685.05 and the Nasdaq Composite added 24.80 points, or 0.2%, to 12,489.03.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended down 0.3%.
British and European Union negotiators were trying to bridge stubborn differences standing in the way of a post-Brexit trade deal, but they had at best 48 hours to avoid a disorderly parting of ways at the end of this month.
Sterling fell in a sentiment reversal from Friday when the British currency rose to a 19-month high against the dollar.
Sterling was last trading at $1.33, down 0.68% on the day.
Investors also await an EU summit starting on Thursday to break an impasse over a 1.8 trillion-euro coronavirus aid package, as well as the last European Central Bank policy meeting of the year on the same day.
In the bond market, yields on most U.S. Treasuries fell as rising coronavirus case loads drove investors to buy the safe-haven securities.
Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 13/32 in price to yield 0.93%, from 0.97% late on Friday.
Oil prices were slightly lower, with traders weighing the positive impact from an OPEC+ deal on production against increasing coronavirus cases. Spot gold prices gained.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; Additional reporting Shriya Ramakrishnan and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru, Gertude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York, Ross Kerber in Boston, Danilo Masoni in Milan and Joice Alves in London; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)
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