Global stocks edge lower on economic toll from coronavirus, oil rallies

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global stock markets sank on Friday following more signs that the COVID-19 pandemic would take a massive toll on economic growth, while oil prices continued to rally on hopes of a cut to global supply.

Investors sought safe havens in the U.S. dollar and government bonds, pushing U.S. Treasury yields near their lowest in three weeks.

U.S. payrolls fell by the largest amount in March since March 2009, ending a record 113 straight months of job growth. Morgan Stanley said the U.S. economy will shrink 5.5% in 2020, the steepest drop since 1946, with a 38% contraction predicted for the second quarter.

Oil prices recorded their biggest weekly gain in five weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had brokered a deal that could result in Russia and Saudi Arabia cutting oil output by an unprecedented 10 million to 15 million barrels per day (bpd), representing 10-15% of global supply. Trump said he had not offered to cut U.S. output.

In Europe, a number of firms flagged a hit to business from the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, foreshadowing a deeper earnings recession ahead of the reporting season. [.EU]

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 1.39% following broad declines in Europe and Asia.

At the close of trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 360.91 points, or 1.69%, to 21,052.53, the S&P 500 lost 38.25 points, or 1.51%, to 2,488.65 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 114.23 points, or 1.53%, to 7,373.08.

“Global recession fears are now being confirmed by the incoming economic prints,” said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM. “Until the virus case count peaks and the business earnings outlook improves, risk sentiment may only experience fleeting bouts of positivity.”

The pandemic has claimed more than 53,000 deaths as it further exploded in the United States and the death toll climbed in Spain and Italy, according to a Reuters tally. [nL8N2BR2TX]

Concerns about the extent of the damage to the global economy pushed investors into the perceived safety of government bonds. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 6/32 in price to yield 0.6072%, from 0.627% late on Thursday.

“You have to take into consideration this isn’t the full impact just yet,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York, adding that he expects “further erosion in the job market in the months ahead.”

Brent crude futures gained 15% to $34.43, extending Thursday’s record 24.7% surge, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 12.28% to $28.43. [O/R]

Saudi Arabia said it would call an emergency meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), state media reported.

In early March, talks over production cuts between Russia and Saudi Arabia collapsed, leading them to start a price war that has pushed oil prices to their lowest levels in nearly two decades.

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