Asian stocks poised to rise after Wall Street gains slip away

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Asia equities face a bumpy session on Friday after Wall Street pared early gains as optimism over a rebound in oil prices and prospects for further government stimulus were offset by stark economic data showing the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: A visitor wearing protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Wall Street closed little changed on Thursday in the hope a third straight decline in weekly jobless claims signaled the worst of the pandemic’s impact on the labor market was over.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures NKc1 were down 0.1% but the contract is up 1.4% from the Nikkei’s index .N225 close of 19,137.95​​​ on Thursday.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 futures YAPcm1 were up 0.23% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures .HSI .HSIc1 rose 0.2%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.39% higher

The main U.S. stock indexes lost momentum, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq turning negative at the close, as investors digested a report that an experimental antiviral drug for the coronavirus flopped in its first randomized clinical trial.

Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) said the findings were inconclusive because the study conducted in China was terminated early.

Sensitivity to news related to coronavirus therapies reflects investors’ desperation for any indication of when the global economy might be able to start returning to normal, said chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel, Tim Ghriskey.

“Any piece of bad news is likely to rattle the market,” Ghriskey said. “Investors are keen for a semblance of hope that they can soon crawl out of their homes and get on with some form of normal life, even if with trepidation and fear.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $484 billion bill to expand federal loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and hospitals overwhelmed by patients suffering from COVID-19.

President Donald Trump, who has said he will sign the bill, said late Thursday that he may need to extend social distancing guidelines to early summer.

The energy index .SPNY rose 3%, easily leading the 11 S&P 500 sectors as oil prices recovered in a tumultuous week that saw U.S. crude futures crash below zero for the first time in history.

The decline on Monday came amid an April rally of U.S. stock indexes eyeing a raft of global stimulus. However, the benchmark S&P 500 remains more than 15% below its record high as worsening economic indicators foreshadow a deep global recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 39.44 points, or 0.17%, to 23,515.26, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.51 points, or 0.05%, to 2,797.8 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.63 points, 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 0.32%.

U.S. business activity plumbed record lows in April, mirroring dire figures from Europe and Asia as strict stay-at-home orders crushed production, supply chains and consumer spending, a survey showed.

Meanwhile, in a virtual meeting, divided European Union leaders began their search on Thursday for a joint financial fund of up to 2 trillion euros to help recover from the coronavirus pandemic and avoid economic collapse in the bloc’s poorer south.

The U.S. dollar edged higher against the euro in a choppy session after the meeting of the 27-member bloc leaders ended without any agreement on details.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled she was open to offering major financial support for a coronavirus recovery package, but wanted to see how it would be used before committing.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe’s response to economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis required financial transfers to the hardest-hit regions and not just loans.

Brent LCOc1 rose 96 cents, or 4.7%, to settle at $21.33 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 jumped $2.72, or 19.7%, to settle at $16.50. These gains extend oil’s rebound after major oil-producing nations said they would accelerate planned production cuts to combat the dramatic slump in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; additional reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; editing by Richard Pullin

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