World share markets fell on Thursday as nerves over jobs data likely to lay bare the economic carnage from the coronavirus pandemic outweighed a $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday backed the massive bill aimed at helping jobless workers and industries reeling from the virus, with the package heading for the House of Representatives for vote on Friday.
Yet already questions flew over whether the bill would do enough to soften the disease’s economic hammer blow, with investors bracing for jobs data forecast to show a huge spike in unemployment in the world’s biggest economy.
Europe’s broad Euro STOXX 600 fell 1.6%, with bourses in Frankfurt, London and Paris all down around 2% as a two-day rally faltered.
The sour mood was worsened by slumping consumer morale in Germany and data showing stagnant retail sales in Britain last month, even before the virus hit.
It followed a mixed session in Asia, where MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.7% but regional performances varied.
The Nikkei snapped three days of gains with a 4% drop, while Australia’s benchmark rose for a third day – its longest winning streak in six weeks.
Global markets have lost about a quarter of their value in the last six weeks of virus-driven selling.
And while investors have found a measure of support as governments and central banks launch unprecedented support measures, investors were struggling to work out how bad the coronavirus impact would be.
“No-one is sure how long things are going to be locked down for, how wide the virus will spread in the U.S., what the death toll and hit on the economy will look like,” said Salman Baig, portfolio manager at Unigestion in Geneva.