Oil prices jump 10 percent, US stocks bounce 5 percent

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Oil and global equity markets charged back on Tuesday after the prior day's steep losses as the world's biggest economies moved to cushion the impact of the coronavirus, but stock gains in Europe failed to hold as investors remained skittish.

The price of Brent crude climbed 10 per cent on hopes a supply cut deal could be rescued and most benchmark government bond yields rose from record lows as governments outlined broad measures to confront the epidemic's economic and human toll.

Trump asks for stimulus moves

US President Donald Trump said he would ask Congress for a payroll tax cut and other “very major” stimulus moves to ease the economic pain, but details were still forthcoming.

During a White House meeting with health executives, Trump also said the US administration intended to help airlines and the cruise line industry. He later met with Republican senators to discuss proposals for boosting the economy.

Japan unveiled a second package of measures worth about $4 billion in spending, focusing on support to small and midsized firms.

Commuters walk through Canary Wharf, as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world and as European stocks plunge into bear market territory, in London, Britain March 9, 2020. (Reuters)
Commuters walk through Canary Wharf, as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world and as European stocks plunge into bear market territory, in London, Britain March 9, 2020. (Reuters)

US stocks jumped more than 3 per cent at the open, pared gains to trade briefly negative and then roared back to close up almost 5 per cent. Investors hoped Monday's rout marks the low of a downturn that has pushed Wall Street's major indexes close to a bear market - defined as a decline of 20 per cent from recent peaks.

“Investors are trying put a bottom in here,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey. “It seems like that yesterday was such a collection of so much bad news, it shocked the market down. Today with fresh eyes people are picking out the names they think have dropped the most,” Meckler said.

The S&P 500 forward price-earnings ratio for this year fell to 15.8 as of Monday, in line with the historic average and down from 19.3 less than a month ago, according to Refinitiv.

Comments by Vice President Mike Pence that private US health insurance companies have agreed to cover coronavirus treatment and waive co-payment fees for testing helped US stocks rebound.

Dow Jones rises 1,166.7 points

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1,166.7 points, or 4.89 per cent, to 25,017.72. The S&P 500 gained 135.65 points, or 4.94 per cent, to 2,882.21 and the Nasdaq Composite added 393.58 points, or 4.95 per cent, to 8,344.25.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 2.55 percent but the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 1.14 per cent, after initially trading higher. A jump in infections in Italy, Germany and Britain unsettled investors.

The major European bourses remained in bear territory. The FTSE 100 in London almost eked out a gain but closed down 0.1 percent as oil companies rebounded from the carnage on Monday as Saudi Arabia and Russia engaged in a price war.

“Traders are a bit nervy, the only positive news we've been getting out is probably rate cuts or tax cuts,” said Michael Baker, an analyst at ETX Capital in London. “We need news in terms of the actual control of the virus, which we don’t seem to be having right now,” he said.

Yields on benchmark US 10-year Treasury debt more than doubled to 0.801 percent and those on German Bunds jumped around 20 basis points at one point as investors pared some safe-haven holdings, though they were beginning to ease again.

Many strategists and economists expect the Federal Reserve to cut US interest rates to zero as part of a global move to provide strength and liquidity to the financial system. The dollar rallied after huge losses against the safe-haven Japanese yen and Swiss franc, but analysts said it was too early to predict a floor.

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Asian stocks rebound

Stocks in Asia rebounded, with Japan's Nikkei closing up 0.85 percent after touching its lowest level since April 2017. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index traded 1.8 percent higher as new domestic coronavirus cases tumbled and President Xi Jinping's visit to the epicenter of the epidemic lifted sentiment.

The oil rally had the most horsepower. About half of oil’s massive losses from Monday were clawed back, offering hope that markets had found a floor despite still-fragile sentiment. Russian oil minister Alexander Novak said he did not rule out joint measures with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to stabilize the market.

Benchmark Brent crude futures rose 8.3 percent to settle at $37.22 a barrel, roughly half this year's peak, reached in January. US crude gained 10.4 percent to settle at $34.36. Gold prices fell 1 percent, retreating from the previous session's jump above the key $1,700 level, as safe-haven demand waned a little amid speculation about global stimulus measures.

US gold futures settled down 0.9 percent at $1,660.30 an ounce. The bond market has priced in a global recession of unknown length. Investors are fully pricing an easing of at least 75 basis points at the next Fed meeting on March 18, while a cut to near zero was seen as likely by April.

Yields on 10-year US Treasuries dipped to as little as 0.318 per cent on Monday - a level unthinkable just a week ago -but climbed back to 0.6787 per cent on Tuesday amid the stimulus chatter.

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