Global stock prices slipped and bond yields rose on Wednesday as investors braced for the prospect that Democrats could win both races in a United States Senate runoff election in Georgia, handing them control of the chamber.
Along with their narrow majority in the House of Representatives, a “blue sweep” of Congress could usher in larger fiscal stimulus and pave the way for President-elect Joe Biden to push through greater corporate regulation and higher taxes.
US media declared Democrat Raphael Warnock the winner in his race against Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler while Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and Republican David Perdue were in a virtual tie.
“With Biden proposing to reverse President Donald Trump’s tax cut, increase the minimum wage, and strengthen oversight on various industries, some might argue that his agenda is not particularly market-friendly,” said Vasu Menon, investment strategy executive director at OCBC Bank in Singapore.
Futures for the US S&P 500 index fell 0.8 percent, while Nasdaq futures shed 1.6 percent on fears Democrats could pursue tighter regulations on big tech firms.
Other industries, such as banks, oil and gas and healthcare, could come under heavier scrutiny, while infrastructure and alternative energy sectors could benefit.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 share index fell 0.4 percent while MSCI’s index of Asian-Pacific excluding Japan erased earlier gains to trade 0.2 percent lower.
Short term dip?
The 10-year US Treasury bond yield rose above 1 percent for the first time since March on expectations of larger government borrowing under a Senate in which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could become a tie-breaker.
“US bonds’ reaction reflects growing wariness about Democrats’ victory in the runoffs,” said Shogo Maekawa, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
“It is also natural for stocks to fall near-term as there could be tax hikes and tighter regulations on big techs and so on. But on the other hand, there should be positive factors as well, such as more stimulus and further infrastructure spending,” Maekawa said.
Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Mizuho Bank in Singapore, expects the drop in shares to be short-lived.
“My suspicion is that the immediate knee-jerk reaction would be a slightly stronger dollar and a slight setback in equities, because people are still sizing things up,” he said. “I don’t think this is a trade that markets will continue to chase and extend.”
Shanghai stocks extended their gains on Wednesday, with the CSI300 index rising 0.5 percent and reaching its best level since 2008, shrugging off the New York Stock Exchange’s chaotic handling of how it will treat Chinese companies to comply with sanctions set by the Trump administration.
The exchange is reportedly planning a second sudden U-turn as it says it is reconsidering its plan to allow three Chinese telecom giants to remain listed.
Oil prices held firm, maintaining Tuesday’s gains of nearly 5 percent after Saudi Arabia offered to make voluntary cuts to its oil output.
Tensions following OPEC member Iran’s seizure of a South Korean vessel also frayed nerves, adding further support to the market.
Tehran denied on Tuesday it was using the ship and its crew as hostages, a day after it seized the tanker in the Gulf while pressing the demand for Seoul to release $7bn in funds frozen under US sanctions.
Brent crude rose nearly 1 percent to $54.09 a barrel, the highest since February 26, 2020. It was at $53.87 a barrel at 05:36 GMT after jumping 4.9 percent on Tuesday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures reached $50.24 a barrel, also the highest since February 26, before slipping to $50. The contract on Tuesday closed up 4.6 percent.
In currencies, the US dollar hit a new low before bouncing back on the prospects of the “blue sweep” in Georgia.
The euro rose to $1.2328, a high last seen in April 2018, while the yen hit a 10-month high of 102.595 to the dollar.
The spot gold price held firm at $1,948.20 an ounce, having touched a two-month high earlier in the day.
Bitcoin rose more than 5 percent to touch a record high of $35,879.