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Stocks slide, tobacco shares feel the heat

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Pedestrians walk past a stock indicator displaying closing numbers of Nikkei 225 of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on March 24, 2021. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)

Stock markets slid Tuesday, with Wall Street continuing to retreat from record highs, while shares in tobacco firms plunged on reports the US will crack down on cigarette nicotine levels.

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While both the Dow and the S&P 500 finished last week at new peaks and also posted their fourth consecutive weekly gains, this week has seen shares slide as the earnings season enters its second week.

“It seems like investors might be having a bit of a second thought up here as US earnings season starts to heat up and peak optimism is beginning to set in,” said Stephen Innes of Axi.

Wall Street’s main indices were showing losses in late morning trading, with the Dow down 0.8 percent.

“There are some festering concerns about rising coronavirus cases around the world, ongoing lockdown restrictions around the world, and vaccination efforts around the world that aren’t up to full speed for a variety of reasons, including supply problems,” said Patrick O’Hare at Briefing.com.

Japan’s Nikkei ended the day down two percent after investors took in calls for new states of emergency in the Osaka region and possibly Tokyo, prompted by rising case numbers.

The new measures could involve tougher restrictions including asking shops and restaurants to close, according to local media.

“Along with increased new coronavirus infections, the possibility of a state of emergency declaration is growing, which is turning on an amber light for economic recovery,” Okasan Online Securities said in a commentary.

Losses were also sharp in Europe, with both London and Paris ending around two percent lower.

“Stocks in Europe appear to have run out of steam after the gains of the last seven weeks, with profit-taking appearing to be the order of the day,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

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Meanwhile, shares in tobacco firms took a beating after the Wall Street Journal reported that the US is considering requiring them to lower the nicotine in all cigarettes sold in the country to levels that are no longer addictive.

“Despite the fact that rumours of this regulation have been around for years, and while some may downplay the effectiveness of the ban, it is clear that more governments are moving in this direction and that it is becoming a real possibility in the short term,” said XTB market analyst Walid Koudmani.

Shares in Lucky Strike maker British American Tobacco plunged 7.66 percent.

Meanwhile, shares in Imperial brands, maker of Winston and Kool, fell 7.3 percent.

Altria, owner of Marlboro-maker Philip Morris, was down five percent in late morning trading in New York.

– Key figures around 1530 GMT –
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.8 percent at 33,801.86 points

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 2.0 percent at 3,940.46

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 2.0 percent at 6,859.87 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 1.6 percent at 15,129.51 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 2.1 percent at 6,165.11 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.0 percent at 29,100.38 (close)

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Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.1 percent at 29,135.73 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,472.94 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2039 from $1.2042

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3940 from $1.3919

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.33 pence from 86.51 pence

Dollar/yen: UNCHANGED at 108.12 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 2.0 percent at $65.73 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 2.7 percent at $61.68 per barrel

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