A man walks past an electronic display showing Asian markets indices outside a brokerage in Tokyo last week. Picture: REUTERS
A man walks past an electronic display showing Asian markets indices outside a brokerage in Tokyo last week. Picture: REUTERS

Sydney — Asian shares were led higher by S&P 500 futures on Monday and oil prices hit a five-week peak as countries’ efforts to reopen their economies stirred hopes the world is nearer to emerging from a recession.

Summer weather is enticing much of the world to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns as centres of the outbreak from New York to Italy and Spain gradually lift restrictions that have kept millions cooped up for months.

“The economies of Europe and the US likely bottomed out in April and are slowly starting to come back to life,” wrote Barclays economist Christian Keller in a note.

“However, incoming data from most economies highlight the depth of the contraction, raising risks of longer-term scarring that might undermine the recovery.”

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell took a cautious line in an interview at the weekend, saying a US economic recovery may stretch deep into next year and a full comeback might depend on a coronavirus vaccine.

Late on Sunday, Powell outlined the likely need for three to six more months of government financial help for firms and families.

Slipped into recession

Data out on Friday showed retail sales and industrial production plunged in April, putting the US economy on track for its deepest contraction since the Great Depression.

Data in Japan confirmed the world’s third-largest economy slipped into recession in the first quarter, putting it on course for its worst postwar slump as the coronavirus takes a heavy toll.

Adding to the uncertainty were the trade tensions between the US and China, with Beijing warning it is opposed to the latest rules against telecom equipment company Huawei.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan still edged up 0.4%. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.6% and Chinese blue chips 0.3%.

More carefree were E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 which added 1.1%, even though results from a raft of US retailers this week are likely to make grim reading.

Euro Stoxx 50 futures also gained 1.5% and FTSE futures 1.4%.

Dealers reported much chatter about a possible treatment for Covid-19 from drug maker Sorrento Therapeutics that caused its shares to soar on Friday.

Flood of debt

Another focus will be the US treasury department’s first auction for its 20-year bond on Wednesday. The treasury plans to borrow a record amount of nearly $3-trillion this quarter.

So far, the market has easily absorbed the flood of new debt, with 10-year yields holding to a tight range around 0.64%.

The dollar has also been largely range-bound, with its safe-haven appeal keeping it well supported overall. Against a basket of currencies, it was last at 100.380 having drifted 0.7% higher last week.

The euro was steady at $1.0826, while the dollar was a fraction firmer on the Japanese yen at 107.10.

The pound touched a seven-week low at $1.2073 after the chief economist of the Bank of England said it is looking more urgently at options such as negative interest rates and buying riskier assets to prop up the economy.

In commodity markets, the flood of liquidity from central banks combined with record-low interest rates to help lift gold to a seven-year peak. The metal was last up 1.2% to $1,762 an ounce, with silver and palladium also on a roll.

Oil prices rose amid rising demand as countries worldwide eased travel restrictions.

Brent crude futures firmed 96c to $33.46 a barrel, while US crude rose 98c to $30.41.