June 9, 2020 / 2:56 PM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks slip as investors step back from highs

* Nasdaq opens down 0.6% after setting all-time high

* Oil and industrial prices drop as risk appetite dies

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - A recent run of optimism in markets hit the brakes on Tuesday, as investors pulled back from stocks in the U.S., while turning their attention to safe-haven assets like gold.

Asian equities scored their ninth day of gains after landmark highs by Wall Street on Monday, but Europe’s big markets opened with a lurch and were 1.1% in the red by the time a bumpy U.S. start to Tuesday trading began.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5%, while the benchmark S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were both down 0.6% at the opening bell.

The return to positive territory for the key S&P 500 was psychologically significant for investors and provided a reason to take profit or sell positions they’ve held, said Rick Meckler, a partner at family office Cherry Lane Investments, in New Vernon, New Jersey.

“Upon further reflection some people decided, ‘OK, that’s a pretty good run given all that’s happened’,” Meckler said.

“It’s hard for the retail investor, for the institutional investor as well, to understand how the market can be back to where it started (the year), given the damage that’s been caused to the economy.”

Attention now turns yet again to the U.S. Federal Reserve, which kicks off a two-day meeting on Tuesday, and no major policy announcements are expected when it wraps on Wednesday. The central bank will, however, issue its first economic projections since December, as it attempts to gauge the economic cost of widespread pandemic-related lockdowns to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe fell 0.7% and the pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 1.4% at the U.S. market open.

The euro dipped 0.1% in only its second drop in 11 days, safe bonds were back in favor, while another barb from China in its spat with Canberra saw the Aussie dollar drop 1.3%, having only just set a 10-month high.

The optimism for equity markets came last week after U.S. jobs data showed a sharp decline in the unemployment rate. Wall Street indices surged, with the Nasdaq closing at a record level on Monday.

Global markets were mauled in March amid concern over both the short- and longer-term damage to the world economy from the coronavirus pandemic. But most indices are now back to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Fears of renewed trade tensions between the United States and China and the second-round impact from higher unemployment and bankruptcies are hanging over the outlook, however.

In its latest Global Economic Prospects report on Monday, the World Bank said advanced economies are expected to shrink 7.0% in 2020, while emerging-market economies will contract 2.5%, their first slump since aggregate data became available in 1960.

On a per-capita gross domestic product basis, the global contraction will be the deepest since 1945-46, when World War Two spending dried up.

BEARS BITE BACK

Tuesday’s wobble in markets saw the safe-haven Japanese yen head as high as 107.93, while the U.S. dollar’s gains elsewhere saw the greenback index make its best spurt since May 22.

Big emerging market currencies such as China’s internationally traded yuan, Brazil’s real and Turkey’s lira backpedalled, while Europe’s stocks were led down by a 3.3% drop in eurozone bank shares after a six-day run of gains.

The mood shifted in commodity markets, too.

Oil prices slipped over 1.1% in London after Brent had hit its highest in more than three months at $41 a barrel . Gold flipped higher as industrial metals copper, nickel and aluminum all fell.

“While OPEC+’s historic agreement was extended, Gulf nations’ extra voluntary production cut — a massive 1.2m bpd according to Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman — will also end this month,” said commodity strategists at TD Securities.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington and Herbert Lash in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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