Tokyo got a boost as SoftBank soared nine percent on news it is to sell British chip firm Arm to US firm NVIDIA for up to $40 billion

London (AFP) - European stock markets mostly retreated Monday following gains in Asia, as traders weighed up coronavirus vaccine hopes against reimposition of containment measures in several countries.

Trials on one of the most advanced vaccines resumed at the weekend after pausing when a volunteer fell ill.

British regulators gave AstraZeneca and University of Oxford the go-ahead to push on following an investigation, while the drug group said it remained hopeful the vaccine would still be available “by the end of this year, early next year”.

The news provided relief for markets, just as governments across the world see a worrying surge in new infections, forcing Israel to introduce a three-week lockdown.

Britain, France, Austria and the Czech Republic were among European countries reporting surges.

After a spate of local lockdowns this month, new government restrictions come into force across England on Monday, limiting social gatherings to no more than six people.

It comes as Britain’s parliament finds itself arguing about Brexit again, with threats of rebellion and resignations over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial plan for a new law that would break his EU divorce treaty.

The contentious legislation, unveiled last week, would override the divorce deal the UK struck with the EU last year in several key areas related to Northern Ireland.

“The Brexit vote should ensure volatility for the pound and FTSE,” noted Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG trading group.

Sterling, which last week slumped by 3.6 percent against the dollar and euro on Brexit concerns, rose versus the pair on Monday.

In Asian stocks trading, Tokyo closed higher thanks to a surge of nine percent in SoftBank shares after the Japanese group said it was selling British chip designer Arm to NVIDIA of the US for up to $40 billion.

There was little reaction to Yoshihide Suga’s victory in ruling party leadership elections that put him on course to become Japan’s next prime minister.

- US election in view -

Analysts said market attention was turning increasingly to the November presidential election, with Donald Trump battling to keep the White House against Joe Biden, who is leading in opinion polls.

“The focus on all the other danger points has meant the election has played a less meaningful role so far but, with the election just a few weeks away, something tells me it may soon move into the driver’s seat,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.

Before then, this week’s US Federal Reserve meeting is on the radar for investors looking for an update on the state of the world’s top economy and hoping for fresh guidance on its monetary policy.

- Key figures around 1045 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 6,019.80 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 13,190.97

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 5,041.37

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,313.82

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 23,559.30 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.6 percent at 24,640.28 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,278.81 (close)

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 27,665.64 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2882 from $1.2800 at 2050 GMT on Friday

Euro/pound: DOWN at 92.22 pence from 92.52 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1873 from $1.1843

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.92 yen from 106.10 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.6 percent at $37.11 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.5 percent at $39.63 per barrel