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Global markets lower after Wall Street falls on virus fears

Thursday, November 19, 2020 | Joe Mcdonald, AP Business Writer

A currency trader passes by screens showing foreign exchange rates at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower on Thursday as anxiety about the economic fallout from rising coronavirus infections in the United States and Europe clashed with optimism about a possible vaccine. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks were mostly lower Thursday after Wall Street slid amid anxiety over the economic fallout from rising coronavirus infections in the United States and Europe.

Markets in London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Hong Kong declined, while Shanghai advanced.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index lost 1.2% on Wednesday, erasing early gains after Pfizer and BioNTech reported more promising vaccine data. Losses accelerated after New York City said it would close its public schools to in-person learning following a surge in infections there.

“Concerns over the near-term impact of the recent spike in cases overshadowed additional positive developments on the vaccine front,” Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa of ING said in a report.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.7% to 6,340.69 while the DAX in Frankfurt shed 0.7% to 13,114.12. The CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.5% to 5,484.10.

On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were little changed.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 0.4% to 25,634.34 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.7% to 26,356.97.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5% to 3,363.09 and the Kospi in Seoul added less than 0.1% to 2,547.42.

The S&P-ASX 200 in Sydney added 0.2% to 6,547.20 after the government reported an increase of 178,800 jobs in October, well above forecasts of fewer than 30,000.

India’s Sensex lost 0.5% to 43,949.20. New Zealand declined while Southeast Asian markets gained.

Investor optimism about vaccine development has been tempered by rising case numbers in the United States and other countries. American state governors and mayors are grudgingly issuing mask mandates, limiting the size of gatherings, banning indoor restaurant dining, closing gyms and restricting the hours and capacity of other businesses.

Newly confirmed U.S. virus cases are running close to 160,000 per day. Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest in months.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech reported data suggesting their potential COVID-19 vaccine may be 95% effective. The companies said they plan to ask U.S. regulators within days to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Even with those encouraging figures, there is no guarantee a vaccine will be approved or, if it is, how long it will take to be widely distributed.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell 15 cents to $41.86 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 1 cent to $44.35 per barrel in London.

The dollar strengthened to 103.95 yen from Wednesday's 103.84 yen. The euro retreated to $1.1835 from $1.1865.

7 Stocks That Will Help You Forget About the Fed

Normally when the Federal Reserve (i.e. the Fed) makes an announcement, the market reacts predictably. That’s due, in large part, to the nature of what the Fed normally announces. Will interest rates go up, down, or remain unchanged? And for their part, the markets have a pretty good idea what the Fed will do before they do it.

But the Fed’s announcement of August 26 was a little different. They talked briefly about interest rates (they’re staying really low for a long time). But they were more concerned about inflation. Well, the Fed is always concerned about inflation, but this time they really mean it. Basic economics says that low-interest rates should spur inflation.

However, the market has been defying conventional wisdom and the Fed is not getting the inflation they want. So the Fed has basically said that they’re letting inflation go rogue. If it goes above their target 2% rate, so be it. The Fed is done trying to hit a target. At first, the markets cheered the news. Not only was the Fed not taking away the punch bowl, but they were also going to keep the low rate liquidity going for a long time!

But after a little while to digest things, investors are realizing they have to be grown-ups about this. And now investors are considering how to rebalance their portfolios for the remainder of 2020.

I don’t know about them, but if I were you I would target companies that have a high free cash flow (FCF). Whether it’s your personal finances or in evaluating a stock, cash flow is your friend.

When a corporation has high FCF, they have more strong growth in good markets and more flexibility during when the economy is weaker.

As institutional investors come back into the market, it’s time for you to reposition your portfolio for whatever comes next.

View the "7 Stocks That Will Help You Forget About the Fed".

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