Asian shares rise but traders remain worried about pandemic
Signs of the coronavirus outbreak peaking are helping sentiment
Sydney/New York — Asian stocks extended gains on Tuesday after China’s trade data came in better than expected and as some countries tried to restart their economy by partly lifting restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak.
Analysts said some of the tail risks that had threatened a much deeper and prolonged downturn were starting to dissipate, thanks to a slowdown in new coronavirus cases in major economies and a raft of monetary and fiscal stimulus globally.
Also boosting sentiment was data showing China’s exports in March fell only 6.6% from the same period a year earlier, a smaller drop than the expected 14% plunge. Imports eased a modest 0.9% compared with expectations for a 9.5% drop.
Chinese shares strengthened on Tuesday with the blue-chip index up 0.9%. Australian shares were up 1.1% while Japan’s Nikkei gained 2.2%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.6%. That left MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan rallying over 1%.
E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 jumped 1.2%
It was still too soon to say the worst was over for financial markets.
“While a couple of tail risks appear to be moderating, markets are not out of danger as the impending activity and earnings growth hole in the global economy appears to be larger than we first thought,” Perpetual analyst Matthew Sherwood wrote in a note.
“In the absence of Covid-19 vaccine we seriously question how much of the economy can reopen without threatening flare-ups in virus case numbers.”
In Europe, thousands of shops across Austria were set to reopen on Tuesday, while Spain let some businesses get back to work on Monday though shops, bars and public spaces were set to stay closed until at least April 26.
In the US, which has recorded the highest number of casualties from the virus, President Donald Trump said on Monday his administration was close to completing a plan to reopen the US economy. However, state governors have signalled that the decision on when to restart businesses lay with them.
Wall Street indices ended mixed on Monday with the Dow and S&P 500 falling while a 6.2% gain in Amazon shares helped the Nasdaq end higher.
Elsewhere, Britain’s finance minister told colleagues the UK economy could shrink by up to 30% this quarter due to the coronavirus lockdown that has shuttered businesses.
In a sign of worries about struggling global demand, oil prices barely reacted to a global deal to cut output by a record amount of nearly 10% of world supply. US crude was up just 27c at $22.68, well under its January peak of $63.27.
Brent crude gained 51c to $32.25 a barrel.
Skittish market sentiment helped gold prices cling to highs not seen in more than seven years at $1,720.1 an ounce.
In currencies, the dollar continued to extend losses on the back of the US Federal Reserve’s huge new lending programme. The greenback was a touch weaker against the Japanese yen at 107.62. The euro was up 0.3% at $1.0945. The risk-sensitive Australian dollar jumped 0.6% to $0.6420.