Asian stocks, oil rise as optimism in fight against virus builds

As economies open after a decline in coronavirus cases, investors hope for higher business activity and more oil demand.

Shares in the US rose on Monday led by gains in WTI crude prices and technology stocks [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]
Shares in the US rose on Monday led by gains in WTI crude prices and technology stocks [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

Shares and oil prices climbed in Asia on Tuesday on the hopes of a budding economic recovery as countries began to emerge from weeks of coronavirus-led lockdowns.

Countries and states have begun reopening their economies as new coronavirus cases declined. Italy and Spain have begun to relax strict lockdown rules while Hong Kong may soon reopen cinemas and gyms.

In the United States, the Treasury Department announced it would borrow a record-breaking $3 trillion to fund stimulus, which has included cash handouts to households and subsidies for businesses

California, which was the first US state to shut its economy down due to the coronavirus outbreak, said it would start loosening its lockdown on Friday by allowing some stores to reopen for curbside pickup. New York, which has been the hardest-hit state in the pandemic, has planned a phased reopening outlined by its Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

“Can you lift restrictions and begin to phase in economic activity and yet keep the number of cases at bay? That is what the market is focused on right now,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey to Reuters news agency.

Asian stock indexes followed a late rally on Wall Street in the previous session which was led by tech shares and oil gains.

Early on Tuesday trading in Asia, futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.6 percent and the Australian S&P/ASX 200 were up 1.42 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.5 percent.

Japan and mainland China markets are closed for public holidays.

“The market continues to price in the idea that things are improving,” Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut told Reuters.

The US Treasury Department said late on Monday that it plans to borrow close to $3 trillion in the second quarter of 2020, more than five times larger than its previous record, to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus to the economy.

The Treasury said the increase is driven by new stimulus spending legislation and tax receipt deferrals, steps taken to help the economy overcome social distancing measures that shuttered businesses.

It borrowed $1.8 trillion in the second half of 2008 during the global financial crisis.

In commodities, oil continued rising from the previous day’s session as production cuts began to take effect, easing supply concerns especially in the US. Investors were also optimistic that demand would pick up as cities eased stringent lockdown measures.

US West Texas Intermediate crude climbed 5.7 percent to $21.56 a barrel after data pointed to the smallest weekly increase in inventories. Brent crude rose 4.6 percent to trade at $28.44 a barrel.

Analysts at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said the structure of the oil price rises, with bigger gains in nearer-dated contracts, suggested expectations of more production cuts and a restoration of fuel demand later this year.

They added, though, that this meant prices are highly unlikely to recover the big falls since the start of the year.

Source : News Agencies

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