Global stocks drop as rally shows signs of losing steam

Global stocks edged lower as an equity rally that has been propelled by optimism over the easing of coronavirus lockdowns began to show signs of tiring.

In trading in the Asia-Pacific region on Friday, Japan’s Topix and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 stock indices both fell 0.4 per cent, while China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks slipped 0.2 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was flat.

Stock markets have rallied strongly in recent weeks on hopes of a rebound in global economic activity following the Covid-19 pandemic. But that bullish sentiment could face a new test later on Friday with US jobs data are expected to show that unemployment has risen to a record high.

Official data released on Thursday showed that first-time unemployment benefit claims by Americans last week slowed for the ninth straight week to 1.9m. That took total new claims since mid-March to almost 43m and fell short of economists’ hopes, who had forecast a steeper decline.

“It is premature to argue that the crisis is over, and that the world is heading into a V-shaped recovery,” said Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management. He added that a “second wave of the [coronavirus] pandemic can’t be discounted”.

Caution was prevalent on Wall Street overnight as the S&P 500 ended the session down 0.3 per cent, halting a four-day run of gains. That retreat came after London’s FTSE 100 and the CAC 40 in Paris closed down 0.6 per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively.

Futures markets tipped the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 to both edge 0.1 per cent higher when trading begins later in the day.

In currencies, the euro fell 0.1 per cent on Friday to $1.1327. The euro and eurozone bonds rallied a day earlier after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected increase to its pandemic stimulus package.

But analysts have warned that the ECB will need to do more to support an economic recovery and keep markets buoyant. Christine Lagarde, ECB president, said the eurozone economy was “experiencing an unprecedented contraction” and the recovery had been “tepid” compared to the hit to GDP caused by the pandemic.

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