Asia shares hit one-month high on Chinese trade data, easing pandemic worries

SYDNEY/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian equities extended gains on Tuesday after China’s trade data came in better than expected and as some nations tried to restart their economy by partly lifting restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Passersby wearing protective face masks following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are reflected on a screen displaying stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

European stock markets were headed for a strong start, with FTSE futures FFIc1 up 1.5%, German DAX futures FDXc1 gaining 1.7%, Euro Stoxx 50 futures STXEc1 up 1.4%, and U.S. stock futures ESc1 rising 1.3%.

Analysts said some of the tail risks that had threatened a much deeper and prolonged downturn were starting to dissipate thanks to a slowdown in new coronavirus cases in major economies and a raft of monetary and fiscal stimulus globally.

Market sentiment was boosted by data showing China’s exports in March fell only 6.6% from the year-ago period, smaller than the expected 14% plunge. Imports eased a modest 0.9% compared with expectations for a 9.5% drop.

“Looking ahead, production constraints should no longer be an issue as economic life in China returns,” Oxford Economics said in a note, but added that exports were expected to fall more substantially due to weak global demand.

Chinese shares strengthened on Tuesday with the blue-chip index .CSI300 up 1.2%. Australian shares were up 1.7% while Japan’s Nikkei .N225 gained 2.8%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI was up 0.9%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 1.3% to the highest in a month, up 20% from a four-year low struck on March 19.

Investors are now eyeing the easing of virus-related curbs in some regions for further trading cues.

In Europe, thousands of shops across Austria are set to reopen on Tuesday. Spain recorded its smallest proportional daily rise in the number of deaths and new infections since early March and let some businesses get back to work on Monday.

In the United States, which has recorded the highest number of casualties from the virus in the world, President Donald Trump said on Monday his administration was close to completing a plan to re-open the U.S. economy.

However, some state governors have signalled the decision on when to restart businesses lay with them.

Wall Street indexes ended mixed on Monday with the Dow and S&P 500 falling while a 6.2% gain in Amazon shares helped the Nasdaq end higher.

In a sign of worries about struggling global demand, oil prices barely reacted to a deal to cut output by a record amount of nearly 10% of world supply.

U.S. crude CLc1 was up just 0.8% at $ 22.59 a barrel, well under its January peak of $ 63.27. Brent LCOc1 rose 1% to $ 32.1 a barrel. [O/R]

Skittish market sentiment helped gold prices XAU= cling to highs not seen in more than seven years at $ 1,720.1 an ounce.

In currencies, the dollar extended losses on the back of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s massive new lending programme.

The greenback was a shade weaker against the Japanese yen JPY= at 107.7. The euro EUR= was up 0.3% at $ 1.0945. The risk-sensitive Australian dollar AUD=D3 jumped 0.6% to $ 0.6420.

Editing by Sam Holmes and Himani Sarkar

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