Investors are growing hopeful for a rebound as businesses in some of the worst-hit countries begin to slowly reopen

London (AFP) - Stock markets mostly fell Thursday after rallying for much of the week, with any gains dragged by profit-taking amid concerns over the long-term impact of the virus and worsening China-US relations.

Tokyo’s stock market ended 0.2-percent lower, Shanghai shed 0.6 percent and Hong Kong fell 0.5 percent.

However, Mumbai, Seoul, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Manila were all in positive territory.

In Europe approaching the half-way stage, London was down 0.7 percent, Frankfurt lost 1.4 percent and Paris dropped 1.0 percent.

The eurozone’s economic slump has “likely bottomed out” after the bloc suffered a disastrous collapse under lockdowns to contain coronavirus, a closely watched survey by IHS Markit said Thursday.

The dollar traded mixed and oil prices climbed.

Equities have enjoyed weeks of advances thanks to signs the pandemic is easing in major economies and the gradual lifting of lockdown measures that are expected to have sent the world into a deep recession.

But that optimism has been tempered by uncertainty about the future, while US President Donald Trump has continued to target China over the outbreak and threatened fresh tariffs on the country, fuelling worries of another trade war between the superpowers.

“The prospect of economies reopening and returning to something that resembles normal has, at times, been very positive for markets, as have positive vaccine and treatment trials, but it hasn’t all been good news,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda Europe.

“There’s been some setbacks in countries previously lauded for their handling of the spread…, putting more emphasis on the dreaded second wave if the exit strategy isn’t handled properly.

“On top of that, tensions between the US and China have increased dramatically which is making investors nervous,” Erlam added.

Trump on Wednesday tweeted that “it was the ‘incompetence of China’, and nothing else, that did this mass worldwide killing”.

He later accused counterpart Xi Jinping of being behind a “disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe”.

“It all comes from the top”, he said, adding that China was “desperate” to have former vice president Joe Biden win November’s presidential election.

Stephen Innes, of AxiCorp, warned that investors might not be taking the simmering tensions seriously enough.

“Markets may be pricing in far too much complacency as the US-China ‘phase one’ trade deal could be at risk, as the pandemic and resulting acute economic downturn have made China’s trade commitment to the US much more challenging to fulfil,” he said in a client note.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve have meanwhile highlighted its concerns about the impact of the outbreak.

US policymakers are worried that “even after social-distancing requirements were eased, some business models may no longer be economically viable”.

This would be the case especially if consumers decide to “avoid participating in particular forms of economic activity”, said minutes of the Fed’s last meeting.

Global infections from the novel coronavirus surpassed five million on Thursday as the pandemic played out unevenly across the planet, with China eager to declare a victory, Europe tentatively emerging from its shell and deaths still rising in hotspots in Latin America.

- Key figures around 1100 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 6,024.44 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 1.4 percent at 11,070.22

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.0 percent at 4,453.95

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.2 percent at 2,908.06

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 20,552.31 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 24,280.03 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.6 at 2,867.92 (close)

New York - Dow: UP 1.5 percent at 24,575.90 (Wednesday’s close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.1 percent at $34.19 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.1 percent at $36.51

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0991 from $1.0983 at 2050 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.73 yen from 107.55 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2226 from $1.2233

Euro/pound: UP at 89.89 pence from 89.74 pence