Stocks steady, oil price recovers as more economic aid due

Global stock markets were steady on Thursday as investors balanced hopes for new financial aid against more evidence of the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic lockdown. The price of oil recovered further after a spectacular crash this week.

The US House was expected to vote Thursday on a $483 billion proposal to deliver more loans to small businesses and aid to hospitals after the Senate approved it on Tuesday. EU leaders, meanwhile, were expected to approve Thursday a financial aid package worth 540 billion euros (USD 587 billion).

After Asian markets largely closed higher, France's CAC 40 stock index rose 0.4%to 4,428. Germany's DAX fell 0.2% to 10,399 and Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 5,768. U.S. shares appeared set for a quiet open, with Dow industrials futures down 0.2% and S&P 500 futures steady.

The new aid packages in the U.S. and Europe would come on top of huge amounts of existing financial support. The U.S. Congress has approved more than $2 trillion in aid already. EU institutions and nations have already deployed around 3.3 trillion euros ($3.6 trillion). That, plus massive support for markets from central banks, has helped stocks recover somewhat. The S&P 500 is up 25% since a low in late March. The index has roughly halved its loss from its record set in February.

Investors are still bracing for a severe, painfully deep recession after businesses shut down worldwide in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Surveys of business managers in Europe showed a record fall in activity.

Even as depressing economic and health reports pile up, some investors are looking ahead to parts of the economy reopening as infections level off in some areas.

Trading was mixed in Asia, with Japan's Nikkei 225 adding 1.5% to finish at 19,429.44, while South Korea's Kospi rose nearly 1.0% to 1,914.73. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gave up earlier gains, losing nearly 0.1% to 5,217.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4% to 23,977.32, while the Shanghai Composite inched down 0.2% to 2,838.50.

Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa, economists at ING, said a rise in oil prices, which have been crashing, was a help. But rising Covid-19 cases in the region will likely cap any rally, they said in a commentary.

Benchmark US crude added $1.53 to $15.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

It had zigzagged in the morning before turning higher after President Donald Trump threatened the destruction of any Iranian gunboats that harass U.S. Navy ships, raising the possibility of a disruption to oil supplies.

The big gain, though, means it's recovered just a fraction of its steep losses. It was close to $30 at the start of last week and nearly $60 at the beginning of the year. A collapse in demand for energy combined with continued production in countries around the world means too much oil is sloshing around, depressing its price.

Brent crude, the international standard, rose $1.44 to $21.81 per barrel.

The dollar fell to 107.50 Japanese yen from 107.71 yen Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0777 from $1.0822.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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