Global shares rise despite coronavirus fears; gold gains

Herbert Lash
·4-min read
FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global stocks rose on Wednesday as recovery hopes overcame fears that a surge in coronavirus cases would slow the U.S. economy, but many investors still sought safety on pandemic worries, driving gold prices above $1,800 an ounce for the first time since 2011.

Stocks on Wall Street rose, and the Nasdaq marked a record closing high, boosted by technology shares, while demand for the dollar, a traditional safe harbor, slid even as the number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 3 million. Still, demand for the dollar proved remarkably stable given Wall Street's strength.

Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at StoneX Group Inc in New York, said U.S. investors in particular are still comfortable with the idea of buying secular growth or select companies they think will thrive in a low-consumption economy.

While materials, industrial and bank stocks were lower, Abbasi said, other sectors were delivering gains.

"If you're in an industry where your focus is in technology, such as enterprise software or e-commerce, providing the backbone for those businesses, you've been rewarded hand over fist," Abbasi said.

The technology-rich Nasdaq finished at a record closing high, the fourth time in five days.

But investor sentiment remains tenuous as the pandemic resurges in the United States and elsewhere. Oil prices were steady as rising U.S. crude inventories and the coronavirus surge put the brakes on a recent recovery.

Graphic: New COVID-19 cases: U.S. vs. select European countries, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/bdwvkaynwvm/Pasted%20image%201594217373368.png

The MSCI world equity index <.MIWD00000PUS>, a gauge of equity markets in 49 nations, rose 0.63% and its emerging markets index <.MSCIEF> jumped 1.77% as investors continue to pour into Chinese equities.

"There is certainly a rush from retail to buy Chinese stocks," Abbasi said. "Trading volumes are eclipsing their normal levels."

The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> closed down 0.67% as investors assessed the risk of more restrictive social distancing measures in some places and upcoming quarterly earnings reports.

Analysts expect companies listed on the STOXX 600 to report a 53.9% decline in profit in the second quarter, according toRefinitiv data.

London-listed HSBC <HSBA.L> shed 3.4% after Bloomberg reported U.S. President Donald Trump's top advisers had weighed proposals to undermine the Hong Kong currency's peg to the dollar, which could limit access to the greenback by Hong Kong banks.

"It is impossible for investors not to grow weary and eventually, at some point, fall prey to the endless drip of negative COVID-19 stories and how the second-wave virus will crush the market," said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp.

The economy would likely suffer as some U.S. states reimpose coronavirus-related restrictions, but another nationwide shutdown would be "a big mistake," White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 177.1 points, or 0.68%, to 26,067.28. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 24.63 points, or 0.78%, to 3,169.95 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 148.61 points, or 1.44%, to 10,492.50.

In China, stocks extended their gains to seven sessions, with the blue-chip index <.CSI300> up 1.6% to its highest close since June 2015.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 1.1%, just off the prior day's four-and-a-half-month high.

Coronavirus cases were also on the rise in the Australian state of Victoria, which led to lockdown measures being re-imposed in Melbourne, the country's second-biggest city.

Graphic: World's biggest stock markets since start of 2020, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/gjnvwwkrovw/Pasted%20image%201594112037896.png

Bond markets were focused on a meeting on Wednesday of European Union officials to discuss the shape of the EU's recovery fund.

Yields on German 10-year government debt <DE10YT=RR> were unchanged at -0.441%, just above a one-week low of -0.495%.

The dollar index <=USD>, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, fell 0.4% to 96.493. The euro <EUR=> was up 0.54% while the yen <JPY=> was down 0.26% at $107.2300.

Spot gold <XAU=> rose 0.81% to $1,808.74 an ounce. U.S. gold futures <GCv1> settled 0.6% higher at $1,820.60 an ounce.

Brent crude futures <LCOc1> rose 21 cents to settle at $43.29 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures <CLc1> settled up 28 cents at $40.90 a barrel.

(Reporting by Herbert Lash; additional reporting Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York, Tom Arnold in London and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)