Asian shares rise as investors pin hopes on pandemic peaking

The US President Donald Trump said that 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

Asian shares rose on Thursday on hopes the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing a peak and that governments would roll out more stimulus measures to support their economies, while expectations of a deal to cut oil production bolstered crude prices.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.9 percent, following a strong Wall Street close. US stock futures were flat after bouncing in and out of positive territory. Shares in China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged late last year, rose 0.42 percent. Australian shares were up 2.54 percent. The improved mood is seen extending to Europe, where Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.85 percent, German DAX futures rose 1.04 percent, and FTSE futures gained 1.08 percent.

Oil prices extended gains on hopes major producers

Investors monitor stock market prices in Kuala Lumpur
Investors monitor stock market prices in Kuala Lumpur Reuters

Oil prices extended gains on hopes major producers will cut output at a meeting 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.

"There are signs that infections are peaking, which is leading to the change in market sentiment," said Masayuki Kichikawa, chief macro strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co in Tokyo. "We still need to be very careful, because this is not purely an economic problem. It's more like a natural disaster and, therefore, harder to predict." The S&P 500 gained 3.41 percent on Wednesday, helped by hopes the pandemic was nearing its peak.

The Trump administration has asked lawmakers for an additional $250 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.

Global comparable sales tumbled 22.2% in March: McDonald's Corp

McDonald's Corp said global comparable sales tumbled 22.2 percent in March, while Starbucks Corp forecast a 47 percent drop in second-quarter earnings. Japan's Nikkei stock index bucked the regional trend and fell 0.46 percent as coronavirus infections in the country rose, while 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 in the past month or so, 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 officials across the world remain nervous about the pace of infections and deaths.

The euro nursed losses against the dollar and the pound after eurozone finance ministers failed on Wednesday to 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 still no sign that 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 is improving and he is able to sit up in bed and engage with clinical staff. Johnson, who was battling COVID-19 symptoms since late March, was taken to intensive care two days ago after his condition deteriorated.

US crude rose 3.07 percent to $25.86 a barrel. Brent crude rose 1.98 percent to $33.49 per barrel. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia - a group known as OPEC+ - are set to convene a video conference meeting on Thursday. Hopes of an agreement to cut between 10 million and 15 million barrels per day (bpd) rose after media reports suggested Russia was ready to reduce its output by 1.6 million bpd.

Related topics : Coronavirus