Global stocks fell as new data painted an uncertain picture for China’s economic recovery following its coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday, Chinese stocks erased losses earlier in the morning to trade flat after April trade data showed a surprise rise in exports of 3.5 per cent compared with the same month a year ago.

Economists had expected a fall of nearly 16 per cent.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and Japan’s benchmark Topix slipped 0.5 per cent in Thursday’s trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 per cent.

A private survey of Chinese business activity released earlier in the day underscored weakness in the country’s economy as its services sector contracted for a third consecutive month in April due to the pandemic.

The Caixin-Markit services purchasing managers’ index also showed the second-sharpest fall in export orders and the fastest rate of job shedding on record for China’s services industry.

Some analysts pointed out that the extent of the Chinese economy’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis was still unclear.

Zhong Zhengsheng, chief economist at CEBM Group, said the “second shockwave for China’s economy brought about by shrinking overseas demand should not be underestimated in the second quarter”.

Meanwhile, oil prices were little changed with West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, up 0.3 per cent at $24.05 a barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude flat $29.72 a barrel.

“The short trade is dead for oil, but the rebound will eventually run out of steam,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, who expects WTI prices will hit a ceiling at $30 and Brent at $35.

On Wall Street overnight, the S&P 500 closed 0.7 per cent lower after data showed that America’s private sector lost more than 20m jobs in April as businesses were forced to close due to the pandemic.

Futures markets pointed to a gain of 0.6 per cent for the US stock benchmark when trading begins on Wall Street later in the day.

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