US futures sank with most Asian and European equities Friday after Donald Trump announced he and his wife had tested positive for coronavirus, throwing fresh uncertainty into the presidential election.
The news compounded the downbeat mood on trading floors, where investors were already feeling pessimistic over US lawmakers’ failure to pass a new stimulus bill.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted in the early hours.
The president had taken a test after his close White House aide Hope Hicks had tested positive earlier in the day, meaning he will now have to go into quarantine just weeks before one of the most crucial elections the country has ever had.
His doctor Scott Conley said the couple intended to stay at the White House “during their convalescence”.
“Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments,” he added.
The White House cancelled a planned campaign rally in the crucial swing state of Florida on Friday, and 32 days before the November 3 vote against Democrat Joe Biden, it also looked certain Trump would have to cancel a slew of other trips scheduled for this weekend and next.
The news sent Dow futures tumbling 1.9 percent, while the S&P 500 shed 1.9 percent. Safe-haven assets also rallied, with the Japanese yen — a go-to in times of turmoil and uncertainty — rose to 105 per dollar, from 105.60 earlier in the day.
The greenback climbed against higher-yielding currencies including the Australian dollar and South Korean won, while gold jumped more than one percent and oil prices continued their downward spiral.
Japan’s Nikkei sank 0.7 percent, reversing earlier gains as trading resumed following Thursday’s market shutdown caused by a technical fault.
Sydney, Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok were all down more than one percent but Manila and Wellington both rose.
London, Paris and Frankfurt all fell more than one percent at the open.
Axi analyst Stephen Innes said the announcement would likely increase Biden’s already good chances of winning.
“The risk-off reaction to Trump’s positive Covid-19 test feels like the last of the Biden pricing is getting done,” he said in a note. “The quarantine will mean he misses three swing state rallies — with critical Florida among them.”
Sentiment had already been weak as hopes for a new US rescue package fade.
Democrats pushed their latest $2.2 trillion proposal through the House, where they hold a majority, but without any opposition support, there is no chance it will be agreed by the Republican-dominated Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held a series of talks Thursday to find a way through the deadlock but when asked whether a chance still remained for an agreement, Pelosi replied: “I don’t know.”
OANDA analyst Jeffrey Halley added that “having built hopes higher steadily over the past few sessions that the US Republicans and Democrats were edging closer to a new fiscal stimulus package, a sense of deja vu has swept markets”.
He said that with Republicans offering about $600 billion less than Democrats, their difference was “less insurmountable than previous weeks. Sadly, it appears there is no sign that either side is prepared to cross the spread, or even meet in the middle”.
The need for a new deal was highlighted by news that Americans’ personal income had fallen more than expected in September, while several big-name firms including Walt Disney, American Airlines and United had cut tens of thousands of posts.
Oil prices dropped more than three percent, extending Thursday’s sharp drops on worries about the deadlock on Capitol Hill as well as concerns about demand after the US income data.
For crude, “a move higher is only possible if a fiscal agreement is reached”, said Axi’s Stephen Innes.
Markets in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Seoul and Taipei were all closed for holidays.
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7 percent at 23,029.90 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.1 percent at 5,812.76
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: Closed for holiday
Shanghai – Composite: Closed for holiday
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.00 yen from 105.50 yen
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2880 from $1.2893 at 2115 GMT
Euro/pound: DOWN at 91.11 pence from 91.16 pence
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1732 from $1.1745
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.3 percent at $37.46 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 3.2 percent at $39.63 per barrel
New York – Dow Jones: UP 0.1 percent at 27,816.90 (close)