Wall Street leads stocks higher, oil falls as virus concerns linger
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Gains on Wall Street led stocks across the globe higher on Wednesday, a rebound from a sharp selloff linked to coronavirus worries, but other financial markets felt nagging pressure from concerns over how the disease will affect the global economy.
The Japanese yen and U.S. and German bond prices gave back some recent gains while the U.S. dollar and spot gold prices were little changed. Oil prices continued to fall.
Asia reported hundreds of new cases on Wednesday including an American soldier stationed in South Korea. The disease spread in Europe, and Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for sports and cultural events to be canceled or curtailed for two weeks, and concern mounted that the Summer Olympics could be called off.
Uncertainty kept stock market gains in check, even as lower equities prices brought back some buyers.
“It’s unclear if it’s something that will be resolved in weeks or months or a longer time,” said Chester Spatt, professor of finance at Carnegie Mellon University.
“There is potential for shock to both supply and demand sides of the economy. The magnitude of the shock is uncertain right now.”
Drastic travel restrictions in China, where the virus has claimed almost 3,000 lives, have slammed the brakes on mainland manufacturing and consumer spending, and investors worried about disruptions in other countries.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 77.21 points, or 0.29%, to 27,158.57, the S&P 500 gained 10.2 points, or 0.33%, to 3,138.41 and the Nasdaq Composite added 51.43 points, or 0.57%, to 9,017.04.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was flat and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.08%.
Emerging market stocks lost 1.13%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 1.23% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.79%.
(Graphic: Coronavirus spreads outside of China – here)
U.S. 10- and 30-year Treasury yields edged up from record lows while another safe-haven, German bonds, also saw 10-year yields tumble to four-month lows below -0.5% DE10YT=RR.
Jim Barnes, director of fixed income at Bryn Mawr Trust, said Wednesday morning’s trading hardly showed investors ready to move out of Treasuries, seen as a safer investment compared to equities and other asset classes.
Even though Treasury yields were up from their lows, Barnes said, “I wouldn’t say these yields are attractive, it’s more a place to park cash.”
Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 1/32 in price to yield 1.3287%, from 1.33% late on Tuesday.
The 30-year bond last fell 5/32 in price to yield 1.8095%, from 1.803% on Tuesday.
Oil prices edged up after U.S. data but fell on demand uncertainty linked to the virus, including new cases in oil-producing countries in the Middle East.
“Energy markets have responded positively to the smaller-than-anticipated build,” said Ryan Kaup, a commodities broker at CHS Hedging. “However, coronavirus has kicked market sentiment to the floor.”
U.S. crude fell 0.96% to $49.42 per barrel and Brent was last at $54.08, down 1.58% on the day.
The dollar edged up from a two-week low hit the previous session in step with U.S. equity markets, though moves were muted as investors remained cautious.
“We’re still fixated on equity market moves,” said Shaun Osborne, chief foreign exchange strategist at Scotia Capital.
However, he said, “ranges are pretty contained. I don’t think anybody is reading too much into this rebound in equities at this point.”
The dollar index rose 0.056%, with the euro up 0.09% to $1.0889.
The Japanese yen weakened 0.11% versus the greenback at 110.33 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2919, down 0.65% on the day.
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