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European stock markets fall amid COVID-19 third wave fears and UK-EU vaccine row

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 19: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel (not seen) attend a video conference meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (not seen) in Brussels, Belgium on March 19, 2021. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Von der Leyen said the continent has the power to ban exports to the UK if the pharma firm didn’t meet its supply obligations to the EU. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

European stocks opened lower on Monday amid fears of a third wave of COVID-19 across the bloc, and an escalating row between the UK and European Union (EU) over access to AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) vaccine.

In London, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell 0.79% after opening, while the French CAC (^FCHI) tumbled 0.87% and the German DAX (^GDAXI) was 0.51% lower.

Last week, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she would halt the export of coronavirus vaccines into Britain unless Boris Johnson surrendered British-made AstraZeneca jabs to the EU.

Von der Leyen said the continent has the power to ban exports if the pharma firm did not meet its supply obligations to the EU. “That is the message to AstraZeneca. You fulfil your contract with Europe before you start delivering to other countries,” she told German newspapers over the weekend.

The UK prime minister is expected to speak to his EU counterparts this week. It came as Britain reached a new milestone, on Saturday, announcing that half of the UK adult population have now received a first dose of a COVID vaccine.

READ MORE: Vaccine row heats up as EU doubles down on threat to ban AstraZeneca exports to UK

Across the pond, S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were down 0.30%, Dow futures (YM=F) shed 0.56%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were 0.32% higher as trade began in Europe.

Asian stocks were mixed overnight as a plunge in the Turkish lira sparked talks that capital controls might be needed to stem the rout. At one point, the currency saw it’s largest-single day drop in nearly 20 years.

The slide came after president Tayyip Erdogan shocked markets by replacing Turkey’s hawkish central bank governor with a critic of high interest rates.

Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) fell 2.07%, partly on speculation that retail investors could face losses on large long positions in the high-yielding lira.

Elsewhere, the Hang Seng (^HSI) edged 0.27% lower while the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) climbed 1.14%.

Tim Ash, senior emerging markets sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, said: “This decision is almost as bad as Brexit in terms of being the worst public policy decision I can remember in a country’s history.

“Markets will express their opinions on Monday and it is likely to be an ugly reaction.”

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