Stock markets slide as EU leaders discuss vaccine export ban – as it happened – The Guardian

The stock markets are a sea of red, amid worries over a third wave of coronavirus infections. EU leaders are meeting virtually to discuss the situation and what they can do to speed up vaccination campaigns. It looks like they will shy away from halting vaccine exports, threatened by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen earlier this week.

The EU should redouble its efforts to produce its own doses of Covid vaccines, as it faces continued issues over supply from pharmaceutical companies, German chancellor Angela Merkel said before the meeting.

The situation is far worse in the world’s poorest countries, where only a fraction of the population (if any) have been vaccinated. They have been warned to expect delays in the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines through the UN-backed Covax programme after a double blow of technical problems at a South Korean manufacturing plant and setbacks in securing export licences from the Indian government, Unicef has said.

In the markets, the FTSE 100 index is down 1%, or 70 points, at 6,642. Germany’s Dax has slid 0.66% while France’s CAC and Italy’s FTSE MiB are 0.5% lower. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones has lost 0.7%, the S&P 500 has fallen 0.3% and the Nasdaq is down 0.4%.

Oil prices have tumbled, as supply concerns over the Suez Canal blockage have given way to worries over lower demand, after the introduction of fresh Covid-19 lockdowns across Europe in recent days. Brent crude is down 3.3% at $62.25 a barrel while US light crude has dropped 3.9% to $58.76. Both have fallen by more than $2.

The CBI’s latest retail sales survey suggested retail sales continued to fall in March, but retailers expect a return to growth next month.

The US economy grew at a higher-than-expected annual rate of 4.3% in the fourth quarter, and jobless claims fell to 736,000 last week.

The Bank of England has unveiled a new £50 note featuring Alan Turing, the scientist best known for his codebreaking work during the Second World War, that will go into circulation on 23 June, the date of his birth.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow. Take care – JK