World shares have eked out slim gains, with optimism over economies easing coronavirus lockdowns and oil prices clawing back ground amid caution over corporate earnings.

MSCI world equity index, a tracker of shares in 49 countries, ticked up 0.2 per cent, with European shares mirroring a buoyant Wednesday in Asia after initially choppy trading.

The broad Euro STOXX 600 gained 0.1 per cent, with German automaker Volkswagen saying it expected a full-year profit even after a plunge in first-quarter earnings and Daimler also eyeing an operating profit for its Mercedes-Benz cars and vans unit.

Still, major drug makers Roche and Novartis weighed on the market, falling two per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

Markets in Frankfurt and Paris both gained 0.3 per cent, with London adding one per cent.

Risk assets including equities have rallied for most of this month, thanks to heavy doses of fiscal and monetary policy stimulus around the globe, aimed at softening the economic blow from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Europe’s quarterly results continue to deteriorate, with Refinitiv data pointing to a 40.4 per cent decline in earnings for companies listed on the STOXX 600, versus 37 per cent a week ago.

Investors across the world are growing confident the pandemic might be peaking as parts of the United States, Europe and Australia gradually ease restrictions.

New Zealand this week allowed some businesses to reopen.

“The market is broadly buying stocks on the hope of the recovery and focusing on the eventual winners of this part of the cycle related to COVID-19, and then the structural winners,” Nordea strategist Sebastien Galy said.

Positive news around potential treatments as well as progress in developing a vaccine have also boosted sentiment.

Earlier, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained one per cent to a near two-month peak. Wall Street futures were up 0.7 per cent, helped by forecast-beating revenues from Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Hopes the moves would help revive demand sent US crude futures up about 15 per cent to $14.12 a barrel, paring a 27 per cent plunge over the first two days of this week.

Brent crude futures rose five per cent to $21.47 a barrel.

The moves also emboldened bets on riskier currencies, keeping the dollar on the back foot, with the greenback falling 0.3 per cent to 99.610 against a basket of currencies.

The euro was flat at $1.0860 although the euro index eased after Fitch cut Italy’s credit rating to BBB-, just one notch above “junk” status. Italy’s government bond yields rose after the cut.

Some analysts were circumspect about the rally in stocks, noting a concentration among tech and IT stocks.

“We were actually seeing a big dislocation in performance in the new world – the tech thing – and the old economy of industrials reliant on human costs,” Unigestion portfolio manager Olivier Marciot said.

Investors are watching out for results from the other major tech firms including Amazon and Apple. Earnings from Facebook and Microsoft Corp are due later in the day.

The gains have come even as analysts predict a sharp contraction in world growth.

Moody’s expects economies of the G20 nations to shrink 5.8 per cent this year with momentum unlikely to recover to pre-coronavirus levels even in 2021.

Markets were next looking for any guidance from the US Federal Reserve, which is due to issue a policy statement around 1800 GMT after its two-day meeting. The European Central Bank meets on Thursday.

Analysts said it was unlikely the Fed would make further major policy moves, given the scope and depth of its efforts to counter the economic damage caused by coronavirus.

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