Global stocks up on hopes pandemic at peak


Global shares have risen on hopes the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing a peak and that governments will roll out more stimulus to support their economies, while expectations of a deal to cut oil production bolstered crude prices.

European stock markets gained for a fourth straight day, with investor attention also focused on a meeting of European Union finance ministers to discuss an economic rescue package.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 1.7 per cent, with battered travel and leisure stocks, autos, and mining companies leading early gains.

MSCI’s All-Country World Index, which tracks shares across 49 countries, was up 0.5 per cent to its highest since March 12.

US stock futures were up 1 per cent after bouncing in and out of positive territory in Asia.

In Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 1.56 per cent, following a strong Wall Street close.

Shares in China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged late last year, rose 0.42 per cent. Australian shares were up 2.54 per cent.

“Sentiment remains volatile, but investors appear to be looking through the growing headline numbers of COVID-19 cases and focusing on signs that the spread of the pandemic is being brought under control, which in turn is underpinning hopes for a relatively swift relaxation of containment measures,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Oil prices extended gains on hopes major producers would agree to cut output when they met later in the day in response to a collapse in global oil demand.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state’s efforts at social distancing were working in getting the virus under control in one of the biggest hot spots in the United States.

US President Donald Trump said he would like to reopen the US economy with a “big bang” but that the death toll from the coronavirus first needs to be heading down.

The S&P 500 gained 3.41 per cent on Wednesday, helped by hopes the pandemic was nearing its peak.

The Trump administration has asked lawmakers for an additional $US250 billion in aid for small US businesses. However, congressional efforts were stalling as Democrats held out for similar amounts of aid for hospitals and local governments.

While Trump’s optimism helped stoke Wall Street’s rally, recent US data and forecasts are only now beginning to reflect the economic damage.

McDonald’s Corp said global comparable sales tumbled 22.2 per cent in March, while Starbucks Corp forecast a 47 per cent drop in second-quarter earnings.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index bucked the regional trend and fell 0.46 per cent as coronavirus infections in the country rose. Markets were also jittery following the government’s declaration of a state of emergency for Tokyo and other urban areas.

The coronavirus has spread rapidly across the globe, infecting more than 1.4 million people and causing more than 87,500 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new virus emerged late last year, ended its more-than two-month lockdown on Wednesday, but many governments around the world remain nervous about the pace of infections and deaths.

The euro gained against the dollar and the pound on hopes euro zone finance ministers would agree on more support for their coronavirus-hit economies.

The pandemic is still infecting and killing large numbers of people across Europe and there is no sign the peak of the region’s outbreak has been reached, the EU’s disease monitoring agency said.

Sterling held onto gains versus the dollar. Helping confidence was news British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition was improving. Johnson, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 late in March, was taken to intensive care two days ago after his condition deteriorated.

Against a basket of its peers, the dollar fell 0.1 per cent.

US crude rose 5.3 per cent to $US26.42 a barrel. Brent crude rose 3 per cent to $US33.83 per barrel.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia – a group known as OPEC+ – are set to convene a video conference meeting on Thursday.

Hopes of an agreement to cut 10 million to 15 million barrels per day rose after media reports suggested Russia was ready to reduce its output by 1.6 million bpd.

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