Stock Market Today: Washington’s Delay Over An Economic Rescue Package Rattled Markets

U.S. lawmakers and administration officials had hoped to reach an agreement on a $1.3 trillion deal so both chambers of Congress could approve it Monday. But the package hit a procedural roadblock in the Senate Sunday, a sign of political discord amid a national emergency.

Mr. Maynard said this added to concerns stoked by rising infection figures, statewide restrictions on activity, and expectations for rising U.S. unemployment.

European markets opened lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 pan-continental index fell 3.8%, and the German Dax dropped 3.4%. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is self-isolating after coming into contact with an infected doctor. The government is set to adopt fiscal measures worth €500 billion ($535 billion) to help cushion Europe’s economic powerhouse from the impact of the pandemic.

While stocks were getting hammered, investors sought shelter in traditional safe-haven assets, such as bonds, gold and currencies like the Swiss franc and Japanese yen, a return to a more traditional trading pattern that gave some investors solace. For several days last week, those assets fell along with stocks, a sign that markets were coming under severe strain.

“We’re not at a turning point yet, we’re still seeing a crisis in markets. But, there are signs that some of the stress may be easing,” said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at MUFG Bank. He pointed to efforts central banks, including the Federal Reserve, made last week to calm markets.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 0.125 percentage point to 0.813%, according to Tradeweb, as investors sought the safety of government bonds. Yields move in the opposite direction to prices.

Adrian Zuercher, head of asset allocation for the Asia-Pacific region at UBS Global Wealth Management, said the Senate delay, the lockdown of New York and rising U.S. jobless claims had all pressured the market.

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“The key uncertainty is how long Europe and the U.S. will be locked down,” Mr. Zuercher said. “Lower interest rates and stimulus packages are not helping you if people can’t go out and spend or even if they can but they don’t want to because they’re scared.”

Brent crude oil fell 5.2% to $25.57 a barrel. That put the global oil benchmark close to the $24.88 level it hit Wednesday, which was the lowest since May 2003. Crude prices have plunged on worries about reduced demand and a price war among major oil producers.

In Asia-Pacific, most stock benchmarks dropped. Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 fell nearly 8% to levels last reached in 2012, despite the country’s federal government rolling out a stimulus package of 66 billion Australian dollars ($38 billion). Indian shares plunged, triggering trading halts, with the S&P BSE Sensex index falling more than 11%.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 bucked the downtrend, ending 2% higher. It had been closed Friday, when some other Asian markets had rallied. Shares in SoftBank Group, a major index constituent, soared on plans to sell up to ¥4.5 trillion ($41 billion) of assets to buy back shares and redeem debt.


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