By Joe McDonald
BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks mostly turned higher on Thursday as investors braced for another report on the number of jobless claims filed in the United States amid the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
European indexes and Wall Street futures were up slightly after a mixed session in Asia.
The latest weekly jobless claims report in the U.S. is expected to show several million more people out of work, adding to the 17 million laid off in the previous three weeks. The sharp rise in unemployment is one of the most painful results of an economic lockdown that governments around the world have enforced to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The tone was darkened this week after a separate report showed that U.S. retail sales and factory output plunged in March. The retail figures hit especially hard because consumer spending is two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
The announcements shook investors who economists have warned are too optimistic about a quick rebound from what is shaping up to be the deepest global slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Boy, were U.S. data a rude awakening,” said Riki Ogawa of Mizuho Bank in a report.
Any notion of a “V-shaped recovery” once anti-virus controls are lifted “is now being questioned more seriously,” Ogawa said.
In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 gained 0.4% to 5,621 and Frankfurt’s DAX rose 1% to 10,379. The CAC 40 in Paris added 0.5% to 4,376.
On Wall Street, the future for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4% while that for the S&P 500 was 0.5% higher.
In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.3% to 19,290.20 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.6% to 24,006.45. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 1.3% to 5,397.60.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3% to 2,819.94. Seoul’s Kospi ended unchanged at 1,857.07 after swinging between gains and losses.
India’s Sensex gained 1.1% to 30,716.93. New Zealand’s main index added 0.6% while Singapore gained and Thailand and Jakarta retreated.
The U.S. retail sales decline exceeded the previous record decline of 3.9% during the Great Recession in November 2008.
Auto sales dropped 25.6%, while clothing store sales plunged 50.5%. Restaurants and bars reported a nearly 27% fall in revenue.
Spending may be falling at an even faster pace than retail figures suggest. Those data don’t include spending on services such as hotel stays, airline tickets or movie theaters, industries that have been largely shut down by anti-virus controls.
Also Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its gauge for manufacturing in New York state fell by its biggest monthly margin in April. The index is at its lowest level on record.
Traders say stocks will be volatile until investors can see more clearly when countries might be able to stop the outbreak.
The price of oil, meanwhile, stabilized after touching another 18-year low on Wednesday, when the International Energy Agency forecast that global demand for crude will fall this year by a record amount.
Benchmark U.S. crude gained 27 cents to $20.14 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract touched its lowest price since 2002 before recovering to $19.87. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced $1.14 to $28.83 per barrel in London. It fell $1.91, or 6.5%, the previous session to $27.69.
Investors are focusing on how and when authorities may begin to ease business shutdowns and limits on people’s movements.
President Donald Trump has been discussing how to roll back federal social distancing recommendations. U.S. governors are collaborating on plans to reopen their economies in what is likely to be a gradual process to prevent the coronavirus from rebounding.
China has reopened factories, shops and other businesses after declaring victory over the outbreak, but forecasters say it will take months for industries to return to normal output, while exporters will face depressed global demand.
With millions of job losses worldwide, “the more lasting damage to confidence and labor market shocks is also being under-estimated, and these may not recover in tandem with the pandemic,” said Mizuho’s Ogawa.
The dollar advanced to 107.66 Japanese yen from Wednesday’s 107.43 yen. The euro fell to $1.0874 from $1.0911.
Source: AP News