Stock markets go topsy turvy as oil jumps, U.S. data stoke fear

NEW YORK, USA – Global stock markets went on a rollercoaster ride on Thursday, April 2, as investors were caught between fresh tremors on the economic front and a sudden surge in oil prices, analysts said.

A tentative rebound in European stocks seen early in the day came to an abrupt end when United States jobless data fueled fears that no amount of government efforts can shield the economy from the coronavirus

News that another 6.65 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the most ever recorded, bringing the two-week total to 10 million, initially depressed Wall Street, but US stocks ended the day with mild gains on news that the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia may be winding down.

The economy is nonetheless "in bad shape," OANDA analyst Edward Moya warned, calling the unemployment figures "whooping."

"It is unfortunate how bad these numbers are getting, and no one will be surprised if we see a few more terrible readings over the next few weeks," he said.

'Choppy'

Fears were growing "that the recent fiscal rescue package to help businesses might not be enough to keep people on their payroll," Moya said.

But just as stock markets investors seemed to be throwing in the towel for the day, US President Donald Trump engineered a dizzying recovery in oil prices that rose by more than 20% after he said he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia to end a price war by slashing crude output.

There was some confusion as to who had been talking with whom – especially after the Kremlin denied that President Vladimir Putin had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – but oil market enthusiasm still spilled over into equities.

The S&P 500  ending with a gain of 2.3% after it took a battering the day before.

"Stocks are showing some resiliency as the energy sector is rallying amid a surge in crude oil prices off a near two-decade low," analysts at the Charles Schwab brokerage said, adding that equity trading remained "choppy."

The deadly coronavirus is keeping traders on edge as it sweeps the planet, with infections approaching one million and countries forced to tighten already strict lockdown measures.

'Bundle of nerves'

The stock market recovery followed the global rout on Wednesday, April 1, as the human and economic toll from the coronavirus rose.

After two weeks of much-needed gains fueled by trillions of dollars in stimulus and widespread monetary easing, focus has returned to the devastation wrought on populations and the long-term impact of the pandemic.

Asia earlier saw a mixed session, with Tokyo down 1.4%, while Sydney and Kuala Lumpur shed 2% apiece and Singapore dropped 0.2%. There were also losses in Wellington and Manila.

But Hong Kong rose 0.8% and Shanghai rallied 1.7%, with Seoul and Bangkok up more than 2%. Jakarta put on more than 1%.

Investors are now a "bundle of nerves," said AxiCorp's Stephen Innes. – Rappler.com