Stock markets rise on huge economic support plans

LONDON — Global stock markets pushed higher Friday at the end of another volatile week, as weary investors welcomed a worldwide fightback against the coronavirus fallout by governments and central banks.

In the eurozone, markets jumped after the European Central Bank launched a vast stimulus this week, with Frankfurt, Paris, Milan and Madrid scoring gains of between 2 and 4 percent.

London's stock market won about 2 percent one day after the Bank of England slashed interest rates to a record-low 0.1 percent and ahead of new UK state stimulus plans later Friday.

The dollar eased somewhat after a lengthy rally fuelled by traders cashing out of their investments, while the embattled oil market extended Thursday's gains.

US stocks rose at the opening bell, with the Dow adding 0.5 percent in the first couple minutes of trading, as US authorities move forward with stimulus plans.

'Big bazookas' 

"The stock markets' upside is a result of a number of big bazookas fired off by central banks," Scope Markets analyst James Hughes told AFP, before sounding a note of grim caution.

"The markets hate uncertainty  and we could not be in a more uncertain time," he added in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 10,000 people around the world.

"So overall I feel markets may recover from here in the short term, but we must remember it has been a week where this crisis escalated in an immeasurable and unprecedented way. Who knows what next week has in store."

Coronavirus threatens to engulf the whole of Europe after it emerged Thursday that eurozone member Italy has overtaken China's death total — and is now braced for an extended lockdown.

The ECB this week embarked upon a massive 750-billion-euro ($820-billion) stimulus package designed to help virus-wracked economies, by buying extra government and corporate bonds.

On Thursday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented a $1 trillion emergency relief package to combat the turmoil, with $1,200 cash handouts for individuals.

It also includes $208 billion in loans for companies hit by the crisis  $58 billion of it for the battered airline sector -- and $300 billion in small business loans.

The plan is the latest in a series of measures put forward by Washington and comes on top of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts and pledges worth hundreds of billions of dollars to provide liquidity to creaking financial markets.

Pre-weekend rally 

European equities are set to end the week higher as they take stock of the rapidly-moving crisis, according to Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

"Though the markets have had an inconsistent, if not negative-skewed, relationship with the various acts of central bank and government stimulus since the coronavirus crisis took hold, it appears that the recent lows  combined with the latest announcements by the BoE and ECB  have tipped the scales," Campbell told AFP.

The dollar was meanwhile down against most other currencies after soaring over the past week owing to massive demand for the unit from dealers cashing out of other, riskier, investments.

The pound was up almost three percent, though it was still sitting around 35-year dollar lows, while the yen and euro also enjoyed strong buying.

Oil markets failed to extend a rebound following a directive from U.S. President Donald Trump to top up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its maximum capacity by buying a total of 77 million barrels from U.S. producers.

Brent fell back below $30 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate to under $25 per barrel.

Oil prices are down more than 50 percent this year, rocked by virus-linked demand woes and an ongoing price war between producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Key figures around 1330 GMT 

London - FTSE 100: UP 2.2 percent at 5,263.10 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 3.8 percent at 8,935.01

Paris - CAC 40: UP 4.4 percent at 4,025.17

Madrid - IBEX 35: UP 2.9 percent at 6,580.00

Milan - FTSE MIB: UP 2.2 percent at 15,804.69

EURO STOXX 50: UP 3.6 percent at 2,541.81

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 20,188.47

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 5.1 percent at 22,805.07 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.6 percent at 2,745.62 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.9 percent at $28.22 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 2.2 percent at $24.66

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.65 yen from 110.71 yen at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0693 from $1.0692

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.1784 from $1.1485

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.82 pence from 93.09 pence

— Agence France-Presse

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