Stocks slumped around the world as investors rushed into haven assets after the delta coronavirus variant cast a pall over the economic recovery, while tension between the U.S. and China escalated.
In a reversal of the reopening trade that has powered this year’s equity rally, cyclical companies bore the brunt of Monday’s rout. Commodity, financial and industrial shares led losses in the S&P 500, which fell the most since May.
Airlines and cruise operators tumbled amid concern over further travel restrictions. After recently plunging to pre-pandemic levels, the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, soared. European stocks had their biggest drop of 2021, following a sell-off in Asia.
With the risk-off sentiment spreading across global markets, Treasury 10-year yields spiraled to their lowest since February, while the dollar rose alongside the yen and the Swiss franc.
The resurgence of Covid-19 is unsettling global investors, who are considering whether new lockdown restrictions will sap the economic rebound and reverse an equity rally that had driven stocks to a record.
For Matt Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management, the move to “higher-quality assets” such as Treasuries is justified. In a Bloomberg Television interview, Miskin said that “we’re in a decelerating growth environment.”
“Risk aversion is firmly in place as the Delta Covid variant spread is triggering a flight to safety,” wrote Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda. “Equities were ripe for a pullback given Wall Street was in agreement that this is ‘as good as it gets’ for peak earnings, economic growth, monetary stimulus. It is hard to hold risky assets over the short term now.”
Geopolitical jitters also resurfaced on Monday after the U.S., the U.K. and their allies said the Chinese government has been the mastermind behind a series of malicious ransomware, data theft and cyber-espionage attacks against public and private entities, including the sprawling Microsoft Exchange hack earlier this year.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.