Asian and European stocks mostly fell Monday, with investor sentiment hit by renewed Covid concerns in China.

Shares headed lower as China’s first coronavirus death in six months sparked fears officials would reimpose strict, economically painful restrictions to fight outbreaks across the country.

Oil prices also slid on fears over energy demand in China, the world’s second biggest economy.

Investors “had been pinning hopes on a Chinese reopening to help ease global supply-chain problems and kickstart growth” in the Asian economic giant, said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

“However, renewed outbreaks of Covid have seen some restrictions return and helped dampen sentiment, with oil prices also lower,” he added.

The death of an 87-year-old man in Beijing on Sunday came as infections across the country spiked, testing authorities’ plans to loosen their grip by lowering quarantine times for foreigners and cancelling mass tests.

The news threw a spanner in the works for investors who had grown hopeful of a gradual reopening of China’s economy.

“It feels like one step forward, two steps back,” said Forsyth Barr Asia analyst Willer Chen.

“It is super hard to reopen in the short term, given winter is coming and cases are at a super high level and spreading across the whole country.”

The measures dealt a particular blow to Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, which fell nearly two percent, extending a sell-off at the end of last week.

Shanghai was also down along with most Asian markets, but Bangkok, Tokyo and Wellington ended higher.

Nevertheless, global markets have enjoyed a broadly healthy November thanks to signs of China easing and indications of slowing US inflation that fanned optimism the Federal Reserve would start to slow its pace of interest rate hikes.

But several officials soon lined up to warn that more needed to be done to get inflation back down from four-decade highs to more bearable levels.

Markets are meanwhile expected to stay relatively quiet for the rest of the week, with many US investors taking time off for Thanksgiving.

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© Agence France-Presse