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'Sombre mood' persists in stock markets

WATCH: Apple’s new devices bring no cheer to subdued overseas markets

Stock markets were mixed on Wednesday, as strong corporate earnings and new devices from Apple failed to distract from the worsening picture on COVID-19 and US stimulus talks.

European stock markets mostly opened near flat on Wednesday morning. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said there was a “sombre mood” among investors.

Markets around the world had fallen on Tuesday after two COVID-19 vaccine trials were paused. Sentiment was also hit by a lack of progress in US stimulus talks and rising COVID-19 cases around the world, which has led to increased restrictions across Europe.

The DAX (^GDAXI) was flat in Frankfurt by mid-afternoon and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was down 0.2% in Paris.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) initially rose half a percent, boosted by pressure on the pound. Around 70% of company earnings on the index are derived in dollars, so a weak pound makes their share prices look more attractive.

Sterling had come under early pressure against the euro and dollar, as traders fretted about Thursday’s looming deadline for Brexit trade negotiations. However, a Bloomberg report claiming the UK would not walk away from talks tomorrow reversed the momentum and sent the pound higher against both the dollar and euro.

A man walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after pandemic concerns snapped a four-day winning streak on Wall Street. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Stocks were weak in Asia overnight. Photo: Vincent Yu/AP

As a result, the FTSE 100 found itself down 0.5% by mid-afternoon.

Wall Street opened higher, but not by much. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) and Dow Jones index (^DJI) were both up 0.1% shortly after the start of trade, while the Nasdaq (^IXIC) rose 0.4%.

In corporate news, Apple (AAPL) unveiled new devices at an event in California overnight. The launch of its new 5G phones was generally seen as underwhelming and the stock fell 0.5% in early trade.

Goldman Sachs (GS) beat forecasts with its third quarter earnings, while Bank of America (BAC) disappointed.

In London, strong earnings from Just Eat Takeaway (JET.L) sent the stock up over 5%. The takeaway ordering app reported a surge in orders during lockdown.

Stocks were weak in Asia overnight. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed up 0.1%, but the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was flat and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) fell 0.6%.

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