Global equity markets dropped and the dollar strengthened after Donald Trump announced that he and the first lady had tested positive for COVID-19 and would start quarantine just weeks ahead of the US presidential election.
Futures for Wall Street’s S&P 500 fell by 2 per cent on Friday afternoon in Asia after Mr Trump tweeted his and wife Melania’s diagnosis.
The announcement prompted a broad pullback from equities and other risky assets as investors digested the potential implications for the election at the start of November.
Tokyo’s benchmark Topix dropped 1 per cent after earlier rising by nearly the same level, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.1 per cent. Nasdaq futures dropped 2.3 per cent while those for London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.8 per cent.
“We’re in a situation where there are more questions than answers,” said Robert Rennie, head of market strategy at Westpac. Mr Rennie said investors were likely to shun riskier assets until there was greater clarity on the outlook for the health of Mr Trump and others in the White House.
“This is happening at the beginning of October and we’ve still got four weeks to go . . . certainly the path ahead is one of extreme uncertainty to the start of November and potentially beyond,” he added.
Markets in mainland China and Hong Kong were closed for a holiday but futures trading in Singapore pointed to a 2 per cent fall for Chinese stocks.
Other investors suggested it was not yet clear what the broader implications were for markets.
“The leg down that you’re seeing in these first minutes after that tweet from Trump is ‘algos’ automatically trading just off the headlines,” said one Tokyo-based trader, referring to the systems used by high-frequency traders.
The market “can’t’ really work out yet whether this represents a big risk-off moment, so it’s too soon to say how this will play”, the trader added.
In currencies, the dollar strengthened, pushing pound sterling down 0.2 per cent to $1.2858 and the euro 0.3 per cent lower to $1.1711.
Oil fell with Brent crude, the international benchmark down 2.1 per cent to $40.08 a barrel and US marker West Texas Intermediate down by the same degree to $37.93 a barrel.
Demand for havens drove up bond prices, pushing the 10-year US Treasury yield down 0.02 percentage points to 0.661 per cent.