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Safe havens rally, equities slide, as European COVID cases rise

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By David Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Safe-havens assets such as the dollar and U.S. Treasuries rallied while global equity benchmarks and bitcoin slid on Thursday, weighed by rising coronavirus cases in Europe and a selloff that pushed Chinese blue-chip shares to their lowest levels since early December.

Oil prices slid after surging Wednesday after a container ship became stuck in the Suez Canal. The ship, which a salvage team described as a “beached whale,” may block the vital shipping lane for weeks, officials said. [L1N2LN0AX]

European shares fell on data showing the biggest rise in new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany since Jan. 9 and the largest number of patients with COVID-19 requiring intensive care in France in the year to date.

The dollar index hit its highest since November overnight, at 92.697, breaking its 200-day moving average.

The dollar index was up 0.015%, with the euro down 0.02% to $1.181.

“The dollar is absolutely critical,” said James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “If the dollar starts rallying, that becomes a problem. It means commodity weakness and emerging-market weakness and it starts to provide a disinflationary countervailing narrative.”

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.48%, dropping for a second day and was at its lowest in more than two weeks.

Weighing on sentiment was a selloff in Chinese technology shares amid concern they will be delisted from U.S. exchanges on worries about a semiconductor shortage.

In Hong Kong, companies with U.S. listings led declines. JD.com lost 3.57% and Alibaba fell 3.91%.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index edged 0.05% lower to its lowest close since Dec. 11, weighed by jitters about policy tightening and rising tensions between China and Western countries over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

In morning trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 127.69 points, or 0.39%, to 32,292.37, the S&P 500 lost 15.64 points, or 0.40%, to 3,873.5 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 101.97 points, or 0.79%, to 12,859.92.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 5/32 in price to yield 1.598%, from 1.614% late on Wednesday.

Investors have focused on the 10-year Treasury yield, pondering whether there is room for long-term interest rates to run, said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

“We know that the economy is primed to begin to really accelerate in the second quarter,” Kelly said. “But we haven’t seen that acceleration yet, so that’s what we’re waiting for.”

U.S. crude fell 3.2% to $59.22 per barrel and Brent was at $62.64, down 2.75% on the day.

Spot gold added 0.2% to $1,737.81 an ounce, while bitcoin slid nearly 6%.

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

 

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