US stimulus hopes fade, coronavirus rises

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LONDON – European stocks fell sharply on Thursday as hope fades of a US stimulus package ahead of the November election and restrictions return across Europe amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 2.4% mid-morning as autos plunged 3.9% to lead losses as all sectors and major stock markets slipped into negative territory.European markets are following the tone set in the United States overnight with lower equity futures as traders continue to weigh the prospects of a coronavirus aid deal ahead of the November 3 election.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 107 points. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures contracts also traded in negative territory.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that it would be difficult to strike a coronavirus stimulus deal ahead of the election, as Democrats and Republicans remain distant on some issues.

Coronavirus concerns continue to weigh on sentiment as infections rise in the region. The French government declared a state of public health emergency on Wednesday as the country saw Covid-19 hospitalizations jump above the 9,100 threshold for the first time since June 25, Reuters reported.

New confirmed cases of coronavirus in France reached 22,591 in 24 hours, exceeding the previous day’s number by around 10,000 cases. The state of emergency gives officials more power to deal with the spread of Covid-19.

In other virus news, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that the average healthy youngster may not receive the coronavirus vaccine until 2022, as public health officials focus on first on the vaccination of vulnerable groups.

The biggest movers

Roche confirmed its outlook for 2020 on Thursday, but saw its shares fall 3.4% at the start of trading after missing sales expectations for the third quarter.

Lufthansa led a large decline for the travel sector, down more than 5.8%, while shares of Technipfmc fell 6% after the oil and gas company entered into a strategic partnership with McPhy on the green hydrogen. Thyssenkrupp and Whitbread also fell more than 6%. Norwegian hydrogen storage company Nel fell 8%.

Atop the blue-chip European index, shopping center operator URW jumped more than 9% by mid-morning after a large group of shareholders opposed its strategy and the issue rights.

Spanish pharmaceutical company Grifols has seen its share jump more than 5% after rival Vertex abandoned a key clinical trial of a new treatment for deficiency disorders.

– CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Chris Eudaily contributed to this market report.

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