Coronavirus treatment hope boosts global stocks

Equity markets gained for a second straight session on Monday as hopes for a coronavirus treatment boosted risk assets and markets geared up for the U.S. Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole meeting later in the week.

Europe’s pan-regional STOXX 600 rose 1.3% and the global benchmark added 0.4% after U.S. regulators authorised the use of blood plasma from recovered patients as a treatment option.

The rises follow healthy gains in Asia, where MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares ex-Japan jumped 0.8% to flirt with a six-month high touched last week and Japan’s Nikkei added 0.3%.

U.S. futures indicated gains on Wall Street ahead, raising the prospect of record highs for the S&P 500.

Markets latched onto an announcement from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for an “emergency use authorisation” which will allow the use of blood plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 as a treatment for the disease.

“Whenever there is any news that is seen as something that is helping the battle against coronavirus it gives a boost to sentiment,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based chief economist at AMP.

Equity market sentiment was also supported by a Financial Times report that the Trump administration is considering by-passing normal U.S. regulatory standards to fast-track an experimental coronavirus vaccine from the UK for use in the United States before the presidential election in November.

Yet rising infection numbers in various parts of the world, especially Europe, cast a cloud over the latest gains, analysts said.

“In spite of its relative success in suppressing the first wave of the virus, it’s Europe that’s begun to re-emerge as a source of concern in recent days given the latest rises in case numbers, a trend that continued through the weekend,” said Henry Allen at Deutsche Bank.

Looming large over this week was an address by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell at the Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium, where he will speak on the Fed’s monetary policy framework review.

“Fed chair Powell will speak (virtually) on the Fed’s Policy Framework Review, and we see a possibility for the Fed to shift to an average inflation target or at the least change its wording regarding inflation overshooting the target,” SEB’s Lina Fransson said in a note to clients.

The risk-on mood also filtered through to fixed-income markets with safe-haven German bond yields ticking up after falling for six consecutive sessions last week, the longest decline since January.

In currency markets, the dollar index slipped and the dollar weakened against the safe-haven Japanese yen at 105.83. The British pound held steady at $1.3090 after declining 0.9% on Friday on lack of progress in post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union. The euro was at $1.1800 after falling 0.5% on Friday following disappointing manufacturing activity data.

Storms bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, shutting more than half its oil production, helped push up crude oil futures. Brent rose 26 cents to $44.61 a barrel and U.S. crude climbed 24 cents to $42.58. [O/R] Gold recovered from early losses to trade 0.4% higher at $1,947.20 an ounce.

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