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U.S. Stocks Sell Off in Worst Week Since October: Markets Wrap

Business

(Bloomberg) — Global equities slumped in a broad retreat that extended across industries amid lingering concerns that retail trading was creating havoc and as traders mulled an uncertain outlook for deploying coronavirus vaccines. Treasury yields rose along with gold.

The S&P 500 500 Index fell about 2%, turning negative for the year and heading to its biggest weekly decline in three months as day traders’ bids for heavily-shorted stocks fueled speculation hedge funds would need to reduce their market exposure. Small-cap stocks outperformed as Johnson & Johnson said its one-shot vaccine generated strong protection against Covid-19, though it was less effective against the South Africa variant.

GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. soared, signaling a return of volatility for stocks popular in internet chat rooms as brokerages said they would start to ease trading restrictions imposed after wild swings this week. Bitcoin surged as much as 16% after Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk mentioned it on his Twitter profile.

The Stoxx Europe 600 dropped almost 2% in a broad decline. Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB fell after warning it’s still in “crisis mode,” with 40% of stores shut. Bootmaker Dr. Martens Plc jumped 22% as it ended its first day of trading in London.

Global stocks are set for their worst weekly slide in about three months, partly on the turmoil caused by hoards of day traders hatching stock bets that roiled hedge funds and strained trading platforms. Some strategists say investors should buy the dip because they expect stimulus-fueled economic recovery from the pandemic. Others fear an uneven vaccine rollout signals a fragile outlook amid stretched valuations.

“Extended and stricter lockdowns do not bode well for the economy,” said Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING Groep. “Demand from China could also weaken on the back of lockdowns.”

Meanwhile, a glut of liquidity sent short-term U.S. dollar borrowing costs to a record low. But in China, a money-market rate surged to the highest in almost six years, reflecting tighter financial conditions even after the central bank extended credit for the first time this week.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

The S&P 500 Index fell 1.9% at 1:33 p.m. in New York.The Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 1.9%.The MSCI Asia Pacific index fell 1.6%.The MSCI Emerging Markets index dropped 1.5%.

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose 0.2%.The euro strengthened 0.1% to $1.2131.The British pound slipped 0.1% to $1.3704.The yen dropped 0.5% to 104.73 per dollar.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose three basis points to 1.07%.Germany’s 10-year yield climbed two basis points to -0.52%.The U.K.’s 10-year yield rose four basis points to 0.325%

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.2% to $52.25 a barrel.Gold rose 0.5% to $1,851.53 an ounce.

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