Equities, oil prices fall on concerns over Europe COVID-19 surge


By David Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) -World equity benchmarks and oil prices drifted lower on Tuesday while safe-haven assets gained as an extended economic lockdown in Germany and U.S. and European sanctions on China curbed risk appetite.

Rising concerns over a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic amid slow vaccine rollouts in Europe hurt oil and travel companies as investors priced in a longer road to economic recovery.

Germany extended its lockdown until April 18, and Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holiday.

U.S. crude fell 6.51% to $57.55 per barrel and Brent was at $60.51, down 6.36% on the day. [O/R]

Travel-related stocks fell as much as 4%.

"Global travel is still looking like it could be a while away," said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker at Star Fuels in Dubai, adding that a second-half recovery in oil demand looked doubtful as lockdowns remain the order of the day.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.88% following broad declines in Europe and Asia.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 308.05 points, or 0.94%, to 32,423.15, the S&P 500 lost 30.07 points, or 0.76%, to 3,910.52 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 149.85 points, or 1.12%, to 13,227.70.

Benchmark 10-year notes rose 19/32 in price to yield 1.6153%, from 1.682% late on Monday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke before a congressional hearing.

In remarks prepared before the hearing, Powell said the U.S. economic recovery had progressed "more quickly than generally expected."

Republican members of the committee quizzed Yellen on how the United States can simultaneously be in crisis and healthy enough to consider raising taxes.

Once employment recovers from the pandemic, "President Biden is likely to propose that we engage in long-term plans to address longstanding investment shortfalls... in infrastructure, investment to address climate risk, investments in people, R&D, manufacturing," she said. "It is necessary to pay for them."

Steven Ricchiuto, US chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA, said "Powell seemed to throw his weight toward Democratic" suggestions that the Federal Reserve include climate risk as part of their stress test for banks.

"For investors, it means this area of regulation will come not only from the Treasury and Congress, but also likely the Fed," he added.

The dollar index rose 0.612%, with the euro down 0.72% to $1.1845.

Human rights sanctions on China imposed by the United States, Europe and Britain, which prompted retaliatory sanctions from Beijing, added to market concerns.

Worries over the pace of the recovery from the pandemic were also heightened after a U.S. health agency said the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine developed with Oxford University may have included outdated information in its data.

Spot gold dropped 0.6% to $1,727.71 an ounce..

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Jane Merriman, Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler)