Asian stocks gain on stimulus measures

Asian stocks rose and US stock futures came off earlier lows as investors took stock of stimulus measures, giving tentative signs of returning appetite for riskier assets.

Gains in South Korea’s equity market topped 5 per cent and shares in Hong Kong climbed about 2 per cent, though a strong advance in Australia fizzled out.

S&P 500 futures erased all of their earlier losses and European contracts were higher.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars rose, with indications the recent dash for the US dollar was ebbing after an eight-day rally. Australian bonds kept their gains as the central bank began buying bonds.

China’s offshore yuan rose despite the weakest daily fixing of its currency in 12 years. Crude rose after its record surge on Thursday.

There were signs of buyers returning in US equities on Thursday when the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed, with Tesla, Twitter and Netflix all up at least 5 per cent.

US President Donald Trump sought to reassure skeptical Republicans that he’s aiming to help workers through the crisis, not necessarily corporations, a priority made all the more urgent after data showed US jobless claims came in higher than expected.

“We are now starting to lean into risk,” Chad Morganlander, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors, told Bloomberg TV.

“The tail of this is going to be potentially somewhat more extended than what the overall market thinks, so we’re not going to get back to business as usual for the next three months, but the policy backdrop across the globe will help soften the blow.”

The latest efforts to mitigate the damage include the Bank of England cutting its bank rate and increasing its bond buying programme, the European Central Bank launching a €750 billion (Dh3 trillion) debt-buying plan, and the Federal Reserve’s support for money-market mutual funds. South Africa cut interest rates and Germany may authorise emergency debt issuance.

But looming over everything is the question of how long the economic downturn will last as coronavirus cases surge in the US and Europe. In California, the governor told everyone to stay at home, while the number of dead in Italy has now surpassed those in China.

Oil prices also rose on the back of Mr Trump's comments that he may intervene to end the current impasse between Saudi Arabia and Russia on production cuts at an “appropriate time”.

Prices were also supported by US’s plans to buy oil for its emergency stockpile.

Brent futures were up 0.98 per cent to $28.75 per barrel at 10:04am, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was up 0.43 per cent to $25.65 per barrel.

Updated: March 20, 2020 11:00 AM