European and US stock markets tanked Wednesday while oil prices plunged over five percent as investors braced for tighter lockdown measures to combat soaring coronavirus infection rates, dealers said.

Wall Street's main indices slumped, with the S&P 500 falling 3.5 percent at the close, while Frankfurt ended the day down 4.2 percent, Paris fell by 3.4 percent and London lost 2.6 percent, with sentiment plagued by an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases in Europe and the United States.

More than 500,000 new coronavirus cases were reported worldwide on Tuesday in a new record, according to a tally compiled by AFP.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced new virus lockdowns that take effect Thursday night, as doctors warned many hospitals are just days away from being overrun with patients.

The restrictions were unveiled a day after officials announced 523 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours -- the highest daily toll since April.

Just after trading ended German Chancellor Angela Merkel also unveiled drastic new curbs, including fresh shutdowns hitting leisure, sports and the food and drink sectors.

"Grim. That's the only word that can describe the markets on Wednesday," said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

"Investors' Covid-19 fears (are) attacking stock prices in ways not seen since the start of the Western phase of the pandemic back in March."

The upsurge in coronavirus fears comes as investors have essentially given up on the chances of a new stimulus package out of Washington.

With US lawmakers unlikely to agree any new rescue package before Tuesday's presidential election, analysts said the new wave of virus infections and lingering uncertainty over the vote mean equities will face a wobbly few days.

US GDP is expected to show a record spike of around 30 percent for the third quarter, but economists warn the big number was fueled by government aid that has now run out, and the gain obscures remaining signs of trouble, especially the slowing pace of recovery.

The government is set to release the first estimate for the quarter at 1230 GMT Thursday.

The impact of this year's lockdowns and travel restrictions was laid bare Tuesday as the World Tourism Organization said the sector had seen a 70 percent collapse in business, leading to a $730 billion loss in revenues, while the UN's trade body said foreign direct investment was likely to slump 40 percent.

Shutdowns also dampen demand for oil, which saw prices tumble more than 5 percent.

coronavirus pandemic
The spread of the virus has forced governments in Europe to reimpose economically painful containment measures, sparking protests in several countries Photo: AFP / Tiziana FABI

"Dealers were dumping oil as they took the view that demand is likely to decline on the back of the growing health crisis," said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

New York - Dow: DOWN 3.4 percent at 26,519.95 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 3.5 percent at 3,271.03 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 3.7 percent at 11,004.87 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 2.6 percent at 5,582.80 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 4.2 percent at 11,560.51 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 3.4 percent at 4,571.12 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 3.5 percent at 2,963.54 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 23,418.51 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,708.80 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,269.24 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1749 from $1.1796 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 104.31 yen from 104.42 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2987 from $1.3044

Euro/pound: UP at 90.45 pence from 90.43 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 5.6 percent at $37.39 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 5.3 percent at $39.03 per barrel

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