Asia stocks rise as economies set to reopen after coronavirus

Global stocks rose on fresh signs that governments were beginning to reopen their economies following lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Asia-Pacific trading on Friday, Tokyo’s benchmark Topix rose 1.8 per cent while South Korea’s Kospi index was up 1.1 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1 per cent, while China’s CSI 300 of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares gained 1.2 per cent.

In Australia — where the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.6 per cent — investors were boosted by a government plan to gradually restart the economy focused on a phased reopening of business and easing of social distancing restrictions.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said on Friday the plan to reopen the economy could restore 850,000 jobs in the months ahead while preserving the successes achieved in suppressing the spread of the virus.

However, Australia’s central bank warned that a full recovery “will take time” as it forecast an economic contraction of 6 per cent in the country in 2020.

33m US jobless claims over the past seven weeks

Futures trading tipped Wall Street’s S&P 500 to rise 1 per cent when trading begins in New York later on Friday after top US officials said their trade pact with China remained on track despite rising tensions over the spread of the coronavirus.

Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, held a conference call with Liu He, China’s vice-premier, on Thursday night to discuss the implementation of the so-called “phase one” agreement.

Trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies have re-emerged over the last week, further fraying investor sentiment already hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Overnight, New York’s Nasdaq Composite closed 1.4 per cent higher to take the technology-focused index into positive territory for the year. Wall Street’s S&P 500 rose 1.2 per cent as investors brushed off fresh data showing US jobless claims over the past seven weeks had risen to more than 33m.

Traders will get additional insight into the damaging impact of the health crisis on the US economy when the government publishes official unemployment statistics for April later on Friday. Economists polled by Bloomberg have forecast a jobless rate of 16 per cent.

Markets in London are closed for a public holiday on Friday.

Oil prices also edged higher on Friday on optimism over an eventual economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis. Brent crude, the international benchmark, climbed 1.3 per cent to $29.85 a barrel. US marker West Texas Intermediate gained 1.4 per cent to $23.88.

Analysts said that crude prices were also being supported by a fall in storage costs since the end of April, which could ease concerns over a damaging global oil glut.

“It does seem that worries over limited storage capacity are easing,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING.