The Federal Reserve reaffirmed its support for the US economy, but boss Jerome Powell said fresh government help was needed to help it through the virus crisis

London (AFP) - European equities sank Thursday on mounting corporate and economic evidence of the coronavirus-induced downturn, with sentiment battered by a gloomy Federal Reserve warning over a US spike in COVID-19 infections.

Major Asian trading hubs also mostly fell as investors nervously awaited data predicted to show that the coronavirus-wracked US economy shrank by more than a third in the second quarter.

At the half-way point, Frankfurt stocks tumbled 2.4 percent on official data showing that Germany’s powerhouse economy – the largest in Europe – shrank a record 10.1 percent in the same quarter.

Elsewhere, London lost 1.6 percent and Paris shed 1.2 percent in value on an avalanche of gloomy corporate earnings that have been sparked largely by devastating coronavirus fallout.

The dollar regained some composure versus the European single currency, having neared a two-year low late Wednesday after the Fed held US interest rates.

Investors alarm spread in Europe on Thursday upon news of disappointing vast losses from the likes of Franco-German aircraft manufacturer Airbus, steelmaker ArcelorMittal and energy giant Eni.

Sentiment took another battering as British energy major Royal Dutch Shell posted a vast $18.1-billion (15.4-billion-euro) second-quarter net loss, while lender Lloyds also sank into the red.

- ‘Cat among pigeons’ -

“A double-digit percentage decline in the German economy and abysmal results from Lloyds have put the cat among the pigeons,” said IG analyst Chris Beauchamp.

“Stocks are firmly in the red, with the FTSE 100 taking it on the chin … and (there are) heavy losses in Europe as well as investors fear that more bad news will be on the way.”

Meanwhile, fears that a second wave could push the global recovery off track have largely eclipsed the Fed’s overnight pledge to provide as much support as necessary to the US economy.

Bank boss Jerome Powell said the Fed had noted the spike in new US cases was denting economic activity and warned recovery depended on staunching the virus so Americans could go out and spend again.

“Powell provided the markets with a healthy dose of reality highlighting that the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over and that the US economy was facing mounting challenges,” warned City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

“Uncertainty remains high and the path forward depends on the virus.”

She added: “The mood in the market has turned jittery as investors look ahead to US GDP data.”

- Washington struggles -

While traders have a mountain of cash from governments and central banks around the world backing them up, the disease continues to dominate as the US death toll topped 150,000 and Australia’s state of Victoria noted a record number of new infections.

The grim readings highlight the overriding need for a vaccine.

There is also worry Powell’s calls for more government aid might not be heeded by US lawmakers, who remain poles apart as they try to hammer out a new stimulus.

Republicans are divided over their own $1 trillion proposal, while Democrats – whose plan is three times bigger – have resisted moves for a piecemeal package suggested by President Donald Trump.

- Key figures around 1050 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.6 percent at 6,034.05 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 2.4 percent at 12,513.43

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.2 percent at 4,899.69

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.7 percent at 3,245.83

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 22,339.23 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 percent at 24,710.59 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,286.82 (close)

New York - Dow: UP 0.6 percent at 26,539.57 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1739 from $1.1792 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.09 yen from 104.92 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2983 from $1.2997

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.42 pence from 90.73

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.4 percent at $40.69 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.4 percent at $43.16

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