Global stocks surge, dollar slumps as Americans head to polls

Roland JACKSON
·3-min read
Americans voted early in record numbers and the overall vote may also hit record levels as they choose between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challender Joe Biden to lead the country for the next four years
Americans voted early in record numbers and the overall vote may also hit record levels as they choose between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challender Joe Biden to lead the country for the next four years

Global stock markets surged and the dollar weakened Tuesday as Americans cast their ballots, with Republican President Donald Trump seeking to defy forecasts and defeat Democrat challenger Joe Biden.

The election is seen by Trump's opponents as a referendum on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the world's worst-hit nation -- which is now also experiencing a deadly resurgence.

Traders are looking at it largely through the prism of the election's impact on the US economic response to the pandemic, in particular whether and how much stimulus could be expected.

Asian, European and US equities rallied, with traders betting on a Democratic sweep of both the White House and Congress that would likely herald a huge new economic stimulus package to fight the coronavirus crisis. 

The dollar slid against other major currencies, reflecting traders' expectations of more stimulus money that would weaken the value of the greenback.

Meanwhile, oil prices jumped higher, clawing back more of their recent losses.

- Markets tempting fate? -

"The markets tempted fate on Tuesday, forgetting the lessons of 2016 as they pre-emptively celebrated a Joe Biden victory," said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell, referring to Trump's surprise victory over Hillary Clinton four years ago.

"Choosing to ignore the slim -- but not slim enough -- likelihood of Trump winning a second term, the markets continued to aggressively rebound," Campbell said.

"The main reason why a Biden win is so sought after from a market perspective, is that a 'blue wave' -- i.e. the Democrats crucially taking the Senate -- would see a stimulus plan far greater than anything Republicans would be willing to go for."

Traders nevertheless remain fearful that a contested result could spell fresh market turmoil, legal chaos and even violent unrest in a nation already bitterly divided.

"The risk is that investors are getting ahead of themselves, given the potential for a long, drawn-out battle over the result of the US election in coming weeks should no obvious result appear by this time tomorrow," warned analyst Chris Beauchamp at trading firm IG.

While Tuesday is formally Election Day, in reality Americans have been voting for weeks. With a huge expansion in mail-in voting to safeguard against the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 100 million people had already cast their ballots ahead of Tuesday. Counting of many of those ballots will not begin until regular voting is finished.

The United States is in dire need of a fresh rescue package as the disease flares up again, threatening a stuttering recovery in the world's top economy, with lawmakers having failed to agree anything despite months of haggling.

"Another potential uncertainty for markets would be the Republicans hanging on to the Senate in what would allow them to block some of the more contentious parts of the Democrats' plans for the US economy," noted CMC Markets UK analyst Michael Hewson.

"The ideal scenario would be a clear-cut outcome," he added.

Oil prices meanwhile rebounded on news that Russia is considering extending a production cut agreed with OPEC this year by another three months.

- Key figures around 1630 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 2.4 percent at 27,579.83

London - FTSE 100: UP 2.3 percent at 5,786.77 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 2.6 percent at 12,088.98 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 2.4 percent at 4,805.61 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 2.7 percent at 3,100.14 

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 2.0 percent at 24,939.73 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.4 percent at 3,271.07 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1728 from $1.1641 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 104.51 yen from 104.72 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3072 from $1.2917

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.74 pence from 90.12 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.8 percent at $37.85 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.3 percent at $39.86.

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