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Global shares start week on back foot as COVID-19 cases spike

·4-min read

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) - Global shares began the week with a cautious start on Monday as Asian and European markets fell after a spike in coronavirus cases across Asia over the weekend hurt investor sentiment while oil hovered around 2-1/2 year highs.

MSCI's All Country World Index, which tracks shares across 49 countries, was down 0.1% after the open in Europe.

Stock markets across the world rebounded last week and were in touching distance of record highs as concern ebbed about future tightening from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

"It would appear, on the face of it, that investors have recovered some of the confidence that was briefly lost in the immediate aftermath of the most recent Federal Reserve policy decision," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

Hewson noted a change in the shorter end of the U.S. yield curve, with both 2-year and 5-year Treasury yields pushing sharply higher. The rise in the 2-year yield was particularly notable, he said, as it has hit its highest levels since late March 2020. The 2-year Treasury yield traded at 0.2641%.

European stocks, as measured by the pan-European STOXX 600 index were down 0.3% by 0816 GMT, although they were not far off record highs. Germany's DAX was off 0.05%, France's CAC 40 fell 0.14% and Britain's FTSE 100 index dipped 0.4%.

Earlier in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last a shade weaker at 702.57. Australian shares slipped 0.2%. Japan's Nikkei and South Korea's benchmark KOSPI were barely changed.

Investors were concerned about a spike in coronavirus infections in Asia with Sydney plunging into a lockdown after a cluster of cases involving the highly contagious Delta strain ballooned.

Indonesia is battling record high cases while a lockdown in Malaysia is set to be extended. Thailand too announced new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces.

Chinese shares were a touch higher with the CSI300 index up 0.2%. Data over the weekend showed profit growth at China's industrial firms slowed again in May as surging raw material prices squeezed margins and weighed on factory activity.

Investors will keep a close eye on official factory activity from China due Wednesday. The manufacturing reading is expected to slow to 50.7 from 51. The private sector Caixin Manufacturing PMI will follow later in the week.

Weaker-than-expected U.S. inflation and news of a bipartisan U.S. infrastructure agreement boosted risk appetite last week.

The infrastructure plan is valued at $1.2 trillion over eight years, of which $579 billion is new spending.

"Investors are keenly watching the progress of U.S. President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure deal through Congress. The package could boost demand significantly, driven by investment in renewables and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure," ANZ analysts wrote in a note.

Oil prices hit and then recoiled from highs last seen in October 2018 in early European trade on Monday as investors eyed the outcome of this week's OPEC+ meeting and as the United States and Iran wrangle over the revival of a nuclear deal, delaying a return of Iranian oil exports. [O/R]

Brent futures fell 0.3% to $75.97 a barrel, while U.S. crude fell 0.15% to $73.93.

The S&P 500 rose 2.7% last week, its strongest weekly gain since early February after data showed a measure of underlying inflation for May rose less than expected, easing fears of a sudden tapering in stimulus by the Federal Reserve.

The Dow climbed 0.7% while the tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 0.06% after holding near the previous session's record high.

Later in the week, a closely watched U.S. jobs report will be released for June which could point to strong labour demand.

Yields for benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries jumped back above 1.50% to close out a week in which rates notched their largest gains since March.

Monetary and fiscal stimulus around the world in response to the pandemic is boosting financial assets, despite an uneven recovery between regions.

Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren on Friday warned a build-up of financial stability risks linked to a low interest rate environment could lead to another downturn that interrupts the labour market recovery and impedes a return to maximum employment.

The U.S. dollar was slightly firmer at 91.826 against a basket of other currencies.

The Japanese yen weakened to 110.65 versus the greenback and the euro eased to $1.1925.

An appreciating dollar took some lustre off gold with prices down 0.4% at $1,771.9 an ounce.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Swati Pandey in Singapore; editing by Jason Neely)

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