Brain Twister

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Asia stocks pull ahead on U.S. stimulus, oil rebound

Most major stock markets edged up slightly in mixed markets on Thursday as investors weighed a rebound in oil prices and prospects for further government stimulus against stark economic data showing the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Investors tilted toward emerging markets from safe-haven assets like the dollar and government bonds. Gold prices jumped as much as 1.5% to top a one-week high on hopes for the impact of stimulus spending.

Major U.S. indexes initially rose after news that U.S. jobless claims fell to 4.4 million, a decline from 5.2 million the week before, but still about 200,000 more than expected. A record 26 million Americans, representing 16% of the labor force, have sought unemployment benefits since March 21.

“The market is ignoring all the weak data so far, it’s priced in,” said Priya Misra, head of global rates strategy for TD Securities.

“We have moved ahead from the second quarter being awful,” Misra said, adding that market participants were turning toward the outlook for the third and fourth quarters.

A discouraging report at midday that Gilead Sciences experimental coronavirus drug flopped in its first randomized clinical trial cooled initial optimism that had major U.S. indexes up more than 1%.

Oil soared after oil-producing nations said they would accelerate production to counter the oversupply that caused record plunges early this week.

U.S. crude rose 23.66% to $17.04 per barrel and Brent was at $21.73, up 6.68% on the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.44 points, or 0.17%, to 23,515.26. But the S&P 500 lost 1.51 points, or 0.05%, to 2,797.8 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.63 point, or 0.01%, to 8,494.75.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.94% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.21%.

The dollar index, tracking the unit against six major peers, rose 0.03%, with the euro down 0.42% at $1.0777.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes were up and down in modest swings. The notes rose 8/32 in price to yield 0.5952%, down from 0.619% late on Wednesday.

Riskier emerging market stocks rose 0.19%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.29% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.52%.

Spot gold added 1.0% to $1,730.50 an ounce. U.S. gold futures gained 0.73% to $1,733.30 an ounce.

Investors expected the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation on Thursday to authorize another $484 billion for coronavirus relief, pushing the total crisis spending near an unprecedented $3 trillion.

European Union leaders similarly added hope for the future. Some 27 leaders convened by video conference to consider adopting a bigger common budget, grants to stricken economies and joint bond sales to finance recovery from the pandemic.

Investors are anxious to see “how quickly EU policy-makers will move towards area-wide fiscal risk-sharing,” said George Cole, an economist at Goldman Sachs.