Global stocks gain as economic toll of virus worsens

Apr 2, 2020

Major global stock markets and U.S. futures are higher following a rocky start to the day after a White House warning about possible American deaths from the coronavirus sent Wall Street tumbling

BEIJING (AP) — Major global stock markets and U.S. futures rose Thursday following a rocky start to the day after a White House warning that as many as 240,000 Americans might die of the coronavirus sent Wall Street tumbling.

London and Frankfurt opened higher. Shanghai gained 1.7%, Seoul added 2.3% and Hong Kong also rose after spending the day swinging between gains and losses. Tokyo sank 1.4% and Sydney also declined.

The White House said 100,000 to 240,000 Americans might die of the virus even if the country avoids shopping and other public activities through April. That added to anxiety among investors who are trying to figure out how long and deep this history-making global economic downturn might be.

“Fear, fear and more fear descended upon the market,” said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report.

Traders say markets will be turbulent until numbers of new cases decline, but Pan said that “still looks to be a distance away.”

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London gained 0.8% to 5,498.95 and Frankfurt's DAX added 0.2% to 9,568.67. The CAC 40 in France advanced 0.5% to 4,225.89.

On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 2.1%.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 lost 114.09 points to 2,470.50. The index is coming off its worst quarter since 2008 with a 20% loss.

The Dow lost 4.4% to 20,943.51. The Nasdaq composite fell 4.4% to 7,360.58.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained to 2,780.64 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.8% to 23,280.06. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 declined to 17,818.72.

The Kospi in Seoul advanced to 1,724.86 while Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 slipped 2% to 5,154.30.

New Zealand retreated while Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta rebounded from early losses to close higher.

The hardest-hit U.S. stocks included banks, utilities and other dividend payers.

Department store icon Macy's has lost 74% in 2020. So much of its stock value has vanished that it was removed from S&P 500 index of big U.S. companies, effective Monday. It is being moved to the small-stock index.

U.S. investors were rattled by mounting evidence of the virus's impact on major companies and the economy as a whole.

Economists expect the next batch of U.S. jobless claims, due to be reported Thursday, to blow past last week's total of nearly 3.3 million initial claims. That was quintuple the prior record.

“The number of unemployed is set to surge and 1H growth will be heavily affected,” said Mizuho Bank in a report.

The number of infections is rising despite anti-disease controls that have shut down much of the global economy.

There are more than 911,000 confirmed cases worldwide, led by the United States with more than 206,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The U.S. Congress last week agreed on a $2.2 trillion economic aid package and the Federal Reserve promised to buy as many Treasurys as needed to keep credit markets running smoothly.

Legislators are collecting ideas for a possible new round of aid. President Donald Trump tweeted his support for a $2 trillion infrastructure package. But top Republicans in Congress say they first want to see how well their newly approved programs do.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.47 to $21.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $1.97 to $26.71 per barrel in London.

The dollar gained to 107.26 yen from Wednesday's 107.15 yen. The euro declined to $1.0921 from $1.0965.