Global Stocks Bide Time As US Presidential Election Caution Sets In

While Democratic plans to raise taxes on corporate profits and capital gains could hit share prices, their pledge on large stimulus is seen as offsetting those blows.

Global Stocks Bide Time As US Presidential Election Caution Sets In

The MSCI world equity index was set for its biggest weekly fall in a month

London/Tokyo:

Global stocks remained within a tight range on Friday, less than two weeks before the US presidential election, with traders looking for a breakthrough in stimulus talks in Washington.

The final debate between US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Thursday provided few surprises.

European stocks pushed 0.8 per cent higher for their best day in five trading sessions. Strong third-quarter results offset key business survey data showing patchy recoveries across the euro zone's two largest economies, Germany and France.

Britain's main stock index added 1.1 per cent as Barclays reported stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings and British retail sales beat expectations in September.

The chief negotiators for Britain and the European Union were set to meet on Friday for talks on a last-gasp trade deal to avert a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis.

US S&P 500 futures were up 0.1 per cent, after dipping following the debate. The underlying index had gained about 0.5 per cent the day before on hopes the US Congress and the White House would soon strike a deal on another round of COVID-19 stimulus.

Shares in Asia hardly moved, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan 0.1 per cent lower. Japan's Nikkei ticked up 0.2 per cent. The CSI300 index of mainland China shed 1.3 per cent.

The MSCI world equity index, which follows shares in nearly 50 countries, was up 0.2 per cent and set for its biggest weekly fall in a month.

At Thursday's debate, Mr Biden renewed his criticism of Mr Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic as Mr Trump levelled unfounded corruption accusations at Mr Biden and his family.

"The market is not going to change significantly in the short term," said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss wealth manager Prime Partners.

"There is no reason for markets to take big long positions as we have the election in less than 10 days, and combined with COVID-19 uncertainty it's a time where people will take a step back and wait for election developments before taking a bet on the markets."

A widening lead in polls by Mr Biden is prompting many investors to bet on a Mr Biden presidency and a "blue sweep", where Democrats win both chambers of Congress.

While Democratic plans to raise taxes on corporate profits and capital gains could hit share prices, their pledge on large stimulus is seen as offsetting those blows.

Clean energy is seen as a potential winner at the expense of conventional energy under a Mr Biden presidency. The Dow Jones oil and gas index is down nearly 49 per cent this year. Mr Biden reiterated his campaign pledge of net-zero-emissions by 2050.

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The Nasdaq index, which had led the market's rally, has underperformed lately, losing 1.4 per cent so far this week, on concern Democrats will take a harder stance on big tech firms.

"A blue wave may lead to concerns about the impact on the tech sector, while a Biden win and a split Congress may imply another four years of limited policy changes and politicking," said Mary Nicola, senior economist at Pinebridge Investments in Singapore.

Expectations of bigger government stimulus have also boosted US borrowing costs. The 10-year US Treasuries yield rose to a four-and-a-half-month high of 0.870 per cent on Thursday and last stood at 0.853 per cent.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported progress in talks with the Mr Trump administration for another round of financial aid, saying legislation could be hammered out "pretty soon".

In the euro zone, bond yields inched lower after the latest monthly purchasing managers' index (PMI) data showed the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 infections in Germany and France.

France saw business activity contract in October. German manufacturing rebounded, but its services dipped.

German 10-year bond yields, the benchmark for the bloc, inched lower to -0.57 per cent. French 10-year borrowing costs dropped a similar amount to -0.29 per cent.

In currency markets, the dollar was 0.03 per cent lower against a basket of currencies early in Europe, shy of a seven-week low hit on Wednesday.

The euro was unchanged against the dollar at $1.1818, So was sterling at $1.3084.

The Chinese yuan stood at 6.6767 per dollar in offshore trade, off a 27-month high of 6.6278 on Wednesday.

Oil prices eased. Brent futures dropped 0.1 per cent to $42.41 per barrel. US crude futures shed 0.2 per cent to $40.57 per barrel.

Gold was steady, with the spot rate little changed at $1,903.36 per ounce.