By Chong Koh Ping
Global stocks mostly traded sideways Thursday, as investors looked toward a gradual economic recovery in the second half of the year, with signs that the spread of the new coronavirus could be slowing in some of the hardest-hit areas.
By late morning in Hong Kong, stock benchmarks in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong had risen or fallen less than 0.5%. S&P 500 futures were little changed. South Korea's Kospi Composite and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose between 1% and 2%. Many of the world's stock markets will be closed Friday for public holidays.
"There's some early optimism that we are about to see the [coronavirus] outbreak in the U.S. and Europe reaching a peak," said Eli Lee, head of investment strategy at Bank of Singapore.
He said such optimism is based on the premise that the strict containment measures that have stalled economies globally will be lifted this summer. Since late March, Mr. Lee has tweaked his advice to clients, recommending they increase their relative holdings of stocks in mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore. But he said investors should still prioritize holding a good amount of cash given volatile market conditions.
Globally, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases was nearly 1.5 million, with more than 88,400 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The disease it causes, known as Covid-19, has killed more than 14,800 people in the U.S. in slightly over a month.
Mr. Lee said the risk of second or subsequent waves of infections would bear watching as this could prolong containment measures, leading to a longer recession than expected. "Investors are not putting the risk of a resurgence on the top of their minds right now," he said.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 0.752%, after settling at 0.770% in the previous session. Bond yields fall as prices rise.
Brent crude, the global gauge of crude prices, retreated 2.4% to $33.63. This week, oil futures have rallied but the price of actual barrels has lagged significantly behind, a sign that global demand has slumped amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both rose 3.4% and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.6%. Stocks have swung wildly in recent weeks, with the S&P 500 climbing 11% so far this week. That puts it on pace for its largest one-week percentage gain since March 2009, but the index is still down 15% in 2020.
Write to Chong Koh Ping at firstname.lastname@example.org