European stocks slipped Friday, but U.S. equity futures indicated a rebound from a losing session, as investor concerns over climbing COVID-19 cases and a lack of immediate stimulus in the U.S. dog sentiment.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, -0.15% slipped 0.1%, but was still poised for a nearly 5% gain for the week. The German DAX 30 DAX, -0.04% and French CAC 40 index PX1, +0.23% fell 0.1% each, while the FTSE 100 UKX, -0.54% fell 0.5%.
The week began with enthusiasm after positive COVID-19 vaccine news from Pfizer PFE, -2.46% and partner BioNTEch BNTX, -7.14%. That drove investors into the so-called value trade — stocks beaten down by the pandemic that would benefit from signs of a strengthening economy.
But news of surging U.S. hospitalizations and record infection levels this week, alongside expectations a stimulus package won’t arrive in time to prevent further economic damage, returned to haunt investors by midweek.
“Many investors only expect a sustainable sector rotation from technology stocks as the pandemic winners to the spurned losers only when the vaccine cannot only be approved but also efficiently distributed in large numbers,” analysts at CMC Markets told clients in a note.
Investors also fear the U.S. will be forced into fresh lockdowns ahead of the holidays, with states such as New York imposing curfews as of this weekend.
Europe has also grappled with climbing cases, though some governments appear not ready to ease up on lockdowns as hospitals are pushed to the limit. The U.K. reported another record rise in infections on Thursday, while in French Prime Minister Jean Castex said it would be “irresponsible” to ease up on a strict lockdown even as the reproductive (R) number has fallen under the key 1 level. A rise above that indicates the pandemic is spreading.
In a report on Thursday, JP Morgan expressed optimism that lockdowns in Europe have been working and economies should be able to reopen in time for December holidays.
Among stocks on the move for Friday, shares of Engie ENGI, +4.36% rose nearly 5% after the French utility said operating income fell for the first nine months of the year fell as it took a one-billion euro ($1.18 billion) hit from the pandemic. But Engie stuck to guidance for 2020 net recurring income and capital expenditure.
Tech names were stronger, with business software group SAP SAP, +0.55% SAP, -1.74% up 1% and chip equipment provider ASML Holding ASML, +1.14% ASML, -1.27% rising 1.6%.