By Sujata Rao and Danilo Masoni
"The face of London was now indeed strangely altered: I mean the whole mass of buildings, city, liberties, suburbs, Westminster, Southwark, and altogether...sorrow and sadness sat upon every face." Daniel Defoe's description of plague-hit London is eeerily reminiscent of the silence in London's financial district during this year's pandemic.
It's been a year most people would rather forget, with almost 2 million dead and the world economy in its worst recession in decades. But many markets rode waves of stimulus to award investors some of the best returns ever -- once they survived the March upheaval.
For those who missed it, here is a link to a story by Reuters reporters Marc Jones and Ritvik Carvalho headlined Journal of a (markets) plague year https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-markets-graphic/graphic-a-journal-of-the-plague-year-idUKKBN28U0B2.
The dollar ends the year almost universally unloved -- at 2-1/2 year lows. Effectively that's a green light for risk, allowing the euro to rise above $1.23, sterling approaching $1.3650, the yuan dropping under 6.49 and an emerging currency index at the highest since April 2018.
But equity markets' mood this week was dampened somewhat by signs that legislation awarding $2000-per-head stimulus checks will simply expire as a new Congress is sworn in on Sunday. The European bourses that are trading, have opened weaker while U.S. equity futures are flat.
There are two major political and trade shifts ahead -- the new EU-China deal should offer rich pickings for European automakers, real estate, financial and healthcare firms. And on Jan. 1 Britain leaves the EU orbit after more than four decades.
In company news, Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N signaled that higher oil and gas prices and improved chemicals margins would aid fourth quarter results, but the gains would be overshadowed by an up to $20 billion asset write down.
The Bitcoin juggernaut continues as the cryptocurrency heads for $30,000 - and annual returns of almost 300%.
Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Thursday:
-U.S. weekly jobless claims at 1330 GMT.
-U.S. trade officials will increase tariffs on certain European Union products, including aircraft-related parts and wines from France and Germany.
--Chinese regulators probe Ant Group's equity investments, intensifying a crackdown on Jack Ma's empire
-Vaccinated U.S. nurse contracts COVID-19, expert says Pfizer shot needed more time to work
(Reporting by Sujata Rao)