Today, European stock indices have dropped markedly. Thus, the pan-European STOXX 600 index sank by 0.4%, the French CAC 40 index fell by 0.6%, the British FTSE 100 index - by 0.63%, and the German DAX - by 0.31%.
Stock indices skidded after French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a month-long limited lockdown for Paris and 16 French regions starting Friday. The new restrictions in the country, which will last at least four weeks, imply that all stores (excepting the priority ones) will be closed. Of course, such measures will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, analysts suggest that they will lead to a significant decrease in economic activity and cause tangible damage to the country's economy.
This decision was motivated not only by the active spread of new coronavirus strains in the European area (according to experts, they are more contagious in comparison with the previous strain of the virus), but also by chaos in vaccination rollouts in Europe.
Thus, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said last Tuesday that the country would face a significant reduction in vaccine supplies. At the same time, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced blocking COVID-19 vaccine exports to the UK, including the vaccines of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The reason for this decision was the investigation into reports of blood disorders. The list of countries that have suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccines include Germany, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, and others.
True, today's data showed that a dozen countries are still going to resume using the drug of AstraZeneca. According to experts from the EU supervisory authority, the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine outweigh the risks. However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) continues to warn that it could not "definitively" rule out a link between the shot and blood clots. Experts from EMA, together with the British Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), have assured the public that research in this area will continue. Therefore, the lifting of the ban on the vaccine supply can rightly be called a real test of public trust in both the vaccine itself and the regulatory bodies.
One way or another, the previously agreed shifting timelines for vaccination in the EU have been shifted. This could be seen very clearly in reports from the UK. According to its authorities, the delay in vaccine supply will determine a slowdown in the vaccine roll-out next month.
Notably, the average weekly gains of European stock indices amounted to 0.4% thanks to an increase in automakers' shares and the fact that the US Federal Reserve had kept its interest rate at a record low.
According to the International Monetary Fund, European countries will return to pre-crisis levels of economic activity only in 2022. At the same time, the European region will still lag behind the United States and Japan in this regard. Their economic indicators are likely to rebound this year.
In general, investors' sentiment in the global stock markets is pessimistic. In addition to the expected decline in economic activity and worsening economic forecasts for the euro area amid new lockdowns, a sharp rise in US government bond yields is also putting the market under pressure. The day before, the yield on 10-year US Treasuries rose to 1.7% for the first time since the end of January 2020. High returns on safer investment in the US government debt pulls liquidity away from the stock markets. A drop in stocks of oil and gas companies due to a sell-off in the oil market is also dragging stock indices down.