NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - World equity benchmarks dipped on Thursday yet remained on pace for their best month on record as a rebound in oil prices, encouraging early results from a COVID-19 treatment trial and expectations of more government stimulus helped ease the pain of February and March.
Safe haven assets including the dollar and government bonds rose, reflecting an unsettled market as concerns about containing the coronavirus pandemic and jobs data in the United States were worse than expected.
“It’s a hope-based rally rather than an evidence-based rally,” said Anthony Doyle, cross-asset specialist at fund manager Fidelity International in Sydney.
There were still worries about a second wave of infections, Doyle said, adding that huge piles of cash waiting to go back into the markets suggest investor confidence remained nervous.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.53% following broad gains in Asia that pushed Japan’s Nikkei to a seven-week high as well as declines in Europe.
The index is on pace for its best month since it launched in the late 1980s..
In early trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 313.38 points, or 1.27%, to 24,320.48, the S&P 500 lost 27.72 points, or 0.94%, to 2,911.79 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 25.57 points, or 0.29%, to 8,889.14.
“We have gone back to a turbo-charged version of the great financial crisis,” said Simon Fennell, a portfolio manager in William Blair’s global equity team, referring to how markets have surged on mass central bank and government stimulus.
Declines in the equity market came on the heels of a strong finish on Wall Street Wednesday after partial results from a trial of Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir suggested it could help speed recovery from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Partial results from the 1,063-patient U.S. government trial of Gilead’s remdesivir were hailed as “highly significant” by the top U.S. infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci.
They showed hospitalized COVID-19 patients given the drug recovered in 11 days, compared with 15 days for patients given a placebo, and a slightly lower death rate.
But since treatment hopes do not seem to take into account regulatory and distribution difficulties, should a treatment be found, currency and bond markets were more circumspect.
“Any positive medical development is helpful,” said Westpac FX analyst Sean Callow. “But no one should be counting on a major breakthrough - the key for markets is control of the spread of the virus.”
A rise in U.S. unemployment claims helped bolster safe haven assets. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 9/32 in price to yield 0.5999%, from 0.627% late on Wednesday.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 3.839 million for the week ended April 25, the U.S. government said. That was down from 4.442 million in the prior week.
Commodities were also set to close the month significantly higher. Gold is set for its best month in four years and copper, which is seen as a something of a bellwether of global industry, was on track for its best performance since December 2017.
Hope that demand could soon return helped push oil prices broadly higher. U.S. crude recently rose 13.48% to $17.09 per barrel and Brent was at $25.27, up 12.11% on the day.
Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Will Dunham
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