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Stocks climb, investors optimistic with plans to ease lockdowns

By AFP - Apr 16,2020 - Last updated at Apr 16,2020

Empty Pennsylvania Avenue with the US Capitol is seen on April 15, 2020 as stay at home order has been extended in Washington, DC (AFP photo)

LONDON — European stock markets climbed on Thursday as investors focused on plans to ease some coronavirus lockdown restrictions, while the dollar rose as well.

      US investors brushed off another 5.2 million first-time unemployment claims, which took the number of jobs lost since mid-March to 22 million, as President Donald Trump was to announce plans for lifting lockdowns in the world's top economy.

      Oil prices rose modestly, a day after hitting an 18-year low as traders believe that a producers' deal to slash output is not large enough to offset a crash in demand caused by coronavirus fallout.

      "Investors are shrugging off the pessimism and (are) willing to focus on more positive things," said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.

      In afternoon eurozone deals, Paris stocks advanced by 0.6 per cent, and Frankfurt jumped by more than one per cent after German Chancellor Angela Merkel late Wednesday unveiled the first steps towards undoing coronavirus restrictions that have plunged the eurozone's biggest economy into recession.

      "Markets in Europe appear to be stabilising a touch on some limited relaxation of lockdown restrictions across the region," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewon.

      "Germany has become the latest European country to say it would be loosening some measures on its lockdown over the coming weeks, which is clearly helping European sentiment for now.

      "Reports that the UK has seen a peak in its infection rates is also helping," he added.

      London stocks gained 0.6 per cent even as a survey showed plunging retail sales in March as the deadly virus outbreak kept British shoppers away from traditional stores.

      Total retail sales sank by 4.3 per cent in March from a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium said.

      "The crisis continues; the retail industry is at the epicentre and the tremors will be felt for a long while yet," said BRC chief Helen Dickinson.

      Milan stocks were up by 1.7 per cent after the Lombardy region, the nation's industrial heartland, signalled it wants to get back to work from May 4.


      Asia equities drop


      On the downside, Asian markets fell following overnight woes on Wall Street as more negative US economic data fuelled worries about the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

      There had already been a spate of grim economic forecasts this week, with the IMF warning of the worst global downturn in a century, and poor US economic figures Wednesday further spooked investors.

      The latest numbers from the United States, the world's biggest economy, highlighted the scale of the damage unleashed by lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed to stop the spread of the virus.

      US retail sales plunged in March while industrial production in the same month suffered its steepest drop since 1946, data showed.

      Other reports pointed to weak homebuilder sentiment and manufacturing conditions, while a US Federal Reserve report said economic activity "contracted sharply".

      President Donald Trump has said that on Thursday he will announce the first plans for lifting lockdowns in the US -- the worst-hit country.

      The World Health Organisation has warned, however, that lifting restrictions too early could have devastating consequences such as a possible second wave of infections.




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