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Stocks wobble as investors assess risks of second wave

Stanley White and Katanga Johnson/Tokyo
Filed on June 19, 2020
A currency trader walks by the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), right, and the foreign exchange rates at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea on Friday. - AP

Asian stock markets were mixed after Wall Street closed little-changed amid as optimism about a possible global economic recovery was tempered by concern over rising coronavirus infections.

Asian shares and US stock futures teetered in choppy trade on Friday as lingering concerns about an fresh spike in coronavirus cases offset growing hopes for a quick economic recovery.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.1 per cent. US S&P 500 e-minis moved in and out of the red, and were last up 0.21 per cent.

Shares in China rose 1.15 per cent, led by gains in financials and the health care sector, but South Korean stocks fell 0.25 per cent due to concern about diplomatic tension with North Korea.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 erased gains to trade 0.08per cent lower, unsettled by a major cyberattack on all levels of Australian's government.

Oil futures rose in Asia on hopes that output cuts will put a floor under prices.

Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.03 per cent, German DAX futures edged up 0.04 per cent, while FTSE futures gained 0.19 per cent in cautious trade.

On the whole, markets have been sideswiped this week on fresh contagion concerns, prompting some investors to temper their optimism about how quickly the global economy can recover for the pandemic.

On Thursday around 400 workers at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany tested positive for the virus. At the same time, investors are nervously following a cluster of cases in Beijing and rising cases in several US states.

All three major US stock indexes were range-bound and oscillated through much of the day as investors struggled to interpret the impact of US employment data without any guidance from corporations on their earnings.

Data on Thursday showed the number of US unemployed remains stubbornly high amid signs of a second wave of corporate layoffs as companies grappled with large declines in revenue because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"The market is looking for its next big impulse," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

"There are a lot of impulses in the market for investors to weigh, sift through and take into account to figure out the next direction."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.15 per cent on Thursday, but the S&P 500 added 0.06 per cent.

The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.33 per cent after spending much of the session lower.

Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said it could take a year or two for the US economy to return to pre-pandemic levels, with gross domestic product declining by 6 per cent in 2020 and the unemployment rate still around 9 per cent by year's end.

Oil futures extended gains from the previous session after Opec producers and allies promised to meet their supply cut commitments and two major oil traders said demand is recovering.

US crude ticked up 0.9 per cent to $39.19 a barrel, while Brent crude rose 0.87 per cent to $41.87 per barrel.

In foreign exchange markets, the dollar headed for its best week in a month against a basket of major currencies as a resurgence in coronavirus cases knocked confidence in a rapid economic recovery and drove investors to the safety of the world's reserve currency.

The British pound was mired near a two-week low at $1.2403 due to concerns that the Bank of England's bond purchases may not be enough to support an economic revival.

Sterling could stage a mild recovery if retail sales data due later on Friday point to a rebound in consumer spending.

Benchmark 10-year US Treasury notes edged up to 0.7019 per cent, but further gains could be capped due to worries about the US labour market. - Reuters

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