Global Stocks Waver Amid Growing Signs Of Coronavirus’s Economic Toll

U.S. futures and European stocks gained, even as some Asian indexes fell, as investors assessed how the coronavirus pandemic would affect economies.

Futures for the S&P 500 rose 1%, as did Europe’s pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600.

The Shanghai Composite in mainland China and South Korea’s Kospi reversed earlier losses to trade slightly higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell around 0.7%.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index both closed more than 1% lower.

Major banks declined, after a big drop overnight in U.S. Treasury yields, with HSBC Holdings PLC, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group MUFG -3.82% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia falling between 1.7% and 2.1%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1.9% Wednesday, as retail-sales and manufacturing data refocused investors’ attention on the costly toll of sweeping lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus. The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that economic activity “contracted sharply and abruptly,” resulting in lost jobs and lower wages.

“The initial shock phase is behind us,” said Stefan Hofer, chief investment strategist at LGT Bank Asia, but as hard data emerges on the economic impact of lockdowns, “the market will still react to that negatively.”

Nearly 17 million Americans have already made new filings for unemployment benefits since mid-March. U.S. jobless claims for the week ending April 11 are due Thursday.

Daryl Liew, chief investment officer at REYL Singapore, said the pullback in shares, following a sharp rebound in recent weeks, reflected concerns a drawn-out pandemic could extend the economic downturn.


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“Containment strategies will probably be in place for far longer than expected, and if this thing is prolonged, you’re going to get insolvency risks. Companies might really struggle to stay afloat,” he said.

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have passed 2.06 million globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with the U.S. accounting for about a third of those. The global death toll exceeded 137,000.

Oil prices remained weak on concerns about slumping demand. West Texas Intermediate, the main U.S. crude gauge, inched up to $19.95 a barrel. It closed on Wednesday at $19.87, below the $20 mark for the first time since 2002.

Mr. Hofer of LGT Bank said the collapse in demand for crude oil outweighed historic output cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and others including Russia.

“The outlook for oil is basically lower for longer,” he said. For U.S. crude, he said, “$20 is the floor perhaps, but going above $30 over the next 12 months seems unlikely.”

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, bounced 1%, after falling more steeply than its U.S. equivalent in the previous session.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a security that is seen as a haven, was little changed at 0.641%, according to Tradeweb, after government bonds rallied in the previous session.

The dollar extended gains Thursday. The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, rose about 0.3% to 94.



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