Stocks head north even as US coronavirus cases surge

Asian shares scaled four-month peaks on Monday as investors counted on a revival in Chinese activity to sustain global economic growth, even as surging coronavirus cases delayed reopenings across the United States.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 1.5 percent to its highest since February.

Eyes were on Chinese blue chips which jumped 4.7 percent, on top of a 7 percent gain last week, to their loftiest level in five years. Even Japan’s Nikkei, which has lagged behind other share indices with a soft domestic economy, managed a rise of 1.8 percent.

“The pandemic still has the world firmly in its grip. But the tone in markets is remarkably chipper. Economic data, for now, has also turned up,” Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC, wrote in a note sent to Al Jazeera.

Analysts at Nomura wrote: “We think there is a case for raising tactical allocation on Asian equities in the context of global equity portfolios.

“We see a number of catalysts that could drive Asia ex-Japan (AeJ) equities’ outperformance over US equities in the near term,” they added. “Better COVID-19 trends and mobility data in economies/markets that dominate the AeJ index should translate into faster economic recovery vs the US”

E-Mini futures for the US S&P 500 also firmed 1.2 percent, while EURO STOXX 50 futures for leading European stocks added 2.2 percent, and the United Kingdom’s FTSE futures were 1.5 percent higher.

Most markets gained ground last week as a raft of economic data from June beat expectations, though the resurgence of coronavirus cases in the United States is clouding the future.

In the first four days of July alone, 15 states have reported record increases in new cases of COVID-19, which has infected nearly three million Americans and killed about 130,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

“It is very clear that the US never got the COVID outbreak under control the way that other countries did. By reopening the economy too soon, we have seen a frightening increase in the pace of new cases,” said Robert Rennie, head of financial market strategy at Westpac.

Analysts estimate that reopenings affecting 40 percent of the US population have now been wound back.

“So markets will have to climb a wall of worry in July as economic activity likely softens from the V-shaped recovery seen over recent months,” warned Rennie. “We must remember too that US and China relations are deteriorating noticeably.”

Two US aircraft carriers conducted exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the US Navy said, as China also carried out military drills that have been criticised by the Pentagon and China’s neighbours.

Risks abound

The risks, combined with unceasing stimulus from central banks, have kept sovereign bonds supported in the face of better economic data. While US 10-year Treasury yields edged up to 0.7 percent on Monday, that was well off the June top of 0.959 percent.

Analysts at Citi estimate global central banks are likely to buy $6 trillion of financial assets over the next 12 months, more than twice the previous peak.

Major currencies have been largely rangebound with the dollar index at 96.960 having spent an entire month in a narrow range between 95.714 to 97.808.

The dollar was a shade firmer on the yen at 107.71 on Monday, while the euro edged up to $1.1281.

In commodity markets, gold has benefitted from super-low interest rates across the globe as negative real yields for many bonds make the non-interest paying metal more attractive.

Oil prices were mixed with Brent crude futures up 23 cents at $43.03 a barrel, while US crude eased 19 cents to $40.46 amid worries the surge in US coronavirus cases would curb fuel demand.’


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