Financial markets were jolted on Monday after the emergence of a fast-spreading coronavirus variant led to the suspension of some trade and travel with Britain as well as another lockdown in London, a new threat that overshadowed progress in Washington toward a long-awaited economic aid package.
But after falling sharply at the start of trading, Wall Street’s major benchmarks mostly recovered before ending the day mixed.
The Dow Jones industrial average recouped all of its early losses to finish slightly up for the day, and the S&P 500 index declined 0.4 percent, its second straight decline near the end of a tumultuous year.
“The stimulus deal is a step in the right direction and significantly lowers the odds of a recession in the first quarter,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. “Still, massive shutdowns in Europe are a harsh reminder we aren’t out of the woods yet.”
The retreat on Monday was sharper in Europe, where the Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 2.3 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain fell 1.7 percent, while the FTSE 250, which includes companies that are more oriented to the British economy, declined more than 2 percent.
The British pound slid as much as 1.8 percent against the dollar before recovering some ground.
The new lockdowns in Britain “raise the chances that the economy stagnates, if not contracts, in the first three months of 2021,” Ruth Gregory, senior U.K. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.
By Monday, some countries outside Europe also began to close their borders. Israel said most foreign nationals wouldn’t be allowed to enter after Wednesday, while Saudi Arabia announced a one-week ban on all international travel
But concern about the economic impact of such restrictions didn’t weigh on Wall Street quite as heavily as it did in Europe, in part because of the fact that congressional leaders have reached a deal on a $900 billion stimulus package, which is expected to include $600 stimulus payments to millions of Americans and strengthen unemployment benefits.
The congressional spending package is expected to include most of the elements that economists have long said were crucial to avoiding further calamity and aiding a recovery. It extends unemployment benefits for millions at risk of losing them, and adds money to their checks to help pay their bills. It revives the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept many small businesses afloat in the spring.
Trading in the U.S. did reflect some concerns about the new restrictions in Europe. Shares of Airlines, cruise lines and casinos — companies that will be hardest hit by travel restrictions — fared poorly. As crude oil prices retreated, reflecting worry about the global economy, energy stocks were also among the worst performers.
But another factor was also weighing on the S&P 500 on Monday — the addition of Tesla to the index.
Gainers were concentrated in the financial sector, after the Federal Reserve on Friday said that the country’s largest banks were sturdy enough financially to survive a severe economic shock related to the pandemic. The Fed will allow them to return more money to shareholders in early 2021 as long as the banks show that they are profitable.