Risk aversion sets in after Trump tests positive for coronavirus

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By Tom ArnoldElizabeth Howcroft

LONDON (Reuters) – A wave of risk aversion swept markets on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19 and will isolate, weeks ahead of the elections.

Shortly before 0500 GMT, Trump said on Twitter that he and his wife had been tested for coronavirus after Hope Hicks, a senior advisor who recently traveled with the president, tested positive.

He later tweeted he and the first lady had tested positive: “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” he said.

U.S. stock futures fell on the news EScv1NQc1 and Treasury yields dipped.

Analysts said the initial risk-off moves were a knee-jerk reaction. As European markets opened, the move in U.S. stock futures pulled back slightly.

At 0735 GMT, S&P 500 futures were down 1% EScv1. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 1.2% NQc1.

European shares opened lower. At 0736, the STOXX 600 was down 0.5% .STOXX and London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.7% .FTSE, already recovering from their initial losses.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was down 0.2% at 0736 GMT .MIWD00000PUS.

Trump’s exposure could cause a new wave of market volatility as investors braced for the presidential election in November. How long the risk-averse moves will last depends on the extent of the infection within the White House, said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss wealth manager Prime Partners.

“We may have to wait until the end of the weekend for more clarity on the situation,” he said. “The reaction has been a bit excessive with U.S. stock futures. It doesn’t mean the U.S. administration is not able to function.”

“It will weigh on market today and early next week but will not induce a long-lasting correction if the infection is contained to Trump,” he added.

Graphic – Trump tests positive for COVID-19, US stock futures fall:

Immediately after the news, the U.S. dollar index rose and the safe-haven yen made its biggest jump in more than a month, reaching 104.95 at 0553 GMT JPY=EBS.

Within 10 minutes, the dollar changed course and started falling. Versus a basked of currencies, it was at 93.759 by 0737 GMT.

The yen stabilised as European markets opened, at 105.185 at 0737 GMT. The Australian dollar, which serves as a liquid proxy for risk, recovered some losses against the U.S. dollar as the moves pulled back AUD=D3.

The euro was down 0.2% against the dollar, at $1.1721 EUR=EBS.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond was down less than 1 basis point at -0.539% DE10YT=RR.

Oil fell, with Brent crude LCOc1 down 2.6% at $39.85 a barrel at 0724 GMT, after falling overnight and stabilising somewhat early in the European session.

Gold rose, as investors flocked to safer assets.

The impact on the U.S. elections is unclear. Even before news of Trump’s infection, markets had been more bearish after Washington failed to reach an agreement on a fiscal stimulus package to help the U.S. economy recover from the impact of coronavirus.

The last round of monthly U.S. unemployment data before the elections is due later in the session, although analysts say this has been relegated to secondary importance.

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters

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