Global shares fall as pandemic fears overshadow aid hopes

Global shares are mostly lower as worries over damage from the pandemic overshadow hopes for more aid for the U.S. economy

TOKYO — Global shares and U.S. futures were mostly lower Monday as hopes for more U.S. economic aid were countered by fears over spreading damage from the pandemic.

France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.5% in early trading to 5,677.99, while Germany’s DAX slipped 0.8% to 13,943.02. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.4% to 6,843.12. U.S. shares were poised for a weak start with Dow futures down nearly 0.7% at 30,793.00. S&P 500 futures fell 0.6% to 3,794.00.

Traders continued to be cheered by prospects that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will pump more aid into the U.S. economy, a move that will help Asia and other export-driven nations.

But that optimism is tempered by worries over the potential for further disruptions on the political front before Biden takes office on Jan. 20, following last weeks riots at the U.S. Capitol. Biden may also struggle to win support for his pledges of much more financial support for individuals and businesses, despite the Democrats’ control of both houses of the Congress with senatorial wins last week in runoff elections in Georgia.

At the same time, the economic outlook is darkening. The Labor Department said Friday employers cut jobs for the first time since April as the worsening pandemic led more businesses to shut down.

It was a much worse reading than the modest growth that economists were expecting to see. Such pressure is rising on economies around the world as the pandemic accelerates.

South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.1% to 3,148.45, shedding earlier gains. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.9% to 6,697.20. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.1% higher to 27,908.22, while the Shanghai Composite dipped 1.1% to 3,531.50.

Japanese markets were closed for a national holiday. Adding to concerns over surging numbers of coronavirus infections, another new variant of the virus was reported over the weekend among several people who had arrived from Brazil.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has taken care to spare the world’s third largest economy as much as possible from risks of sinking further, even as coronavirus cases have surged recently.

Suga’s declaration of a state of emergency for the Tokyo area, which kicked in Friday, focuses on asking restaurants to close at 8 p.m. Critics fear that’s not enough, and Suga’s support ratings are sinking. Cries for his ouster are likely to grow if the upward curb in infections doesn’t flatten in a month, as he has promised.

Hopes are high for rollouts of coronavirus vaccines. But the reports of new versions of the virus are setting off new worries, as some experts believe more studies are needed to see if available vaccines will be effective in curbing those versions of the virus.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 33 cents to $51.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.41 to $52.24 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, shed 53 cents to $55.46 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 104.06 Japanese yen from 103.95. The euro cost $1.2197, down from $1.2220.

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