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Stocks rebound further as markets await $2trln US stimulus boost

International Business
Wed, 25 Mar 2020
Reuters


New York/London: The dollar and global equity markets marched higher on Wednesday and were poised for a second day of gains following a coronavirus-induced selloff, though investors remained concerned about the pandemic's economic impact.

Hopes that an incoming $2 trillion US fiscal stimulus will ease the economic devastation caused by virus lockdowns lifted world equity indexes for a second day after historic gains on Tuesday, but investors refrained from calling a bottom.

Europe's main markets in London, Frankfurt and Paris were struggling to stay positive after ripping 4%-5% higher and oil prices swung from 3% up to 3% down. Wall Street also teetered though it mostly remained more than 1% higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared more than 11% on Tuesday in its biggest single-day percentage gain since 1933 and the benchmark S&P 500 jumped 9.4% - its 10th best day on record out of 24,067 trading sessions since a daily data series started in 1927.

The stimulus package marks progress but the devil's in the details, said Ron Temple, head of US equity at Lazard Asset Management in New York. The legislation is not available to read to know how it will be executed or when money arrives at households and small businesses gain access to funding, he said.

"This is not the all-clear, it's just material progress," Temple said.

"Until we know we can go back to work safely, that we can go to restaurants and go to stores and engage with other humans in close proximity, I don't think you can make an economic or a market call. It's premature to be trying to call the bottom."

The stimulus includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of US families.

It will also include $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

US senators will vote Wednesday. Top aides to Republican President Donald Trump and senior Republican and Democrat senators agreed on the unprecedented bill, which amounts to nearly half the $4.7 trillion the US government spends annually, after five days of marathon talks.

Data pointed to a fast-slowing economy that analysts said signalled the United States already was in recession.

New orders for key US-made capital goods fell sharply in February as demand for machinery and other products slumped, suggesting a deepening contraction in business investment.

The benchmark S&P 500 is still nearly $8 trillion below its mid-February high, and investors expect more sharp swings. Wall Street's fear gauge eased overnight but was on the rise again ahead of Wednesday's open.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe surged 2.65% and emerging market stocks rose 4.32%.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.96%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 661.9 points, or 3.2%, to 21,366.81. The S&P 500 gained 35.76 points, or 1.46%, to 2,483.09 and the Nasdaq Composite added 34.47 points, or 0.46%, to 7,452.33.

In the currency markets, the dollar slipped for a third straight session as a scramble for liquidity was soothed by the super-sized US stimulus plan, though it was starting to look a little stronger again.

The dollar index fell 0.216%, with the euro up 0.44% to $1.0834. The Japanese yen weakened 0.24% versus the greenback at 111.51 per dollar.

The risk-sensitive Australian dollar jumped over the 60-US cent mark for the first time in a week.

Bond markets were also calmer. Benchmark US Treasuries were yielding 0.7987% while in Europe Germany's 10-year yield edged a basis point higher to -0.296%, tailed by other higher-rated government debt.

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde asked euro zone finance ministers during a videoconference on Tuesday to seriously consider a one-off joint debt issue of "coronabonds", officials told Reuters.

In metals markets, gold changed hands at $1,608.78 an ounce, retaining most of Tuesday's gains of almost 5%, its biggest jump since 2008.

Oil prices fell despite the massive pending US economic stimulus package as the coronavirus pandemic hurt US fuel demand, with traders bracing for further declines.

Brent crude was down 17 cents, or 0.6%, to $26.98 a barrel. US crude futures fell 21 cents, or 0.9%, to $23.80 a barrel.

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