Global stocks lower on US job losses, pricier oil


BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets declined Friday after soaring U.S. job losses tempered enthusiasm about a possible deal to stabilize oil prices amid anxiety over the global economic decline due to the coronavirus pandemic.

London and Frankfurt opened lower while Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney retreated. Tokyo closed little-changed after spending part of the day in negative territory.

Some markets followed Wall Street higher after President Donald Trump said on Twitter he expected major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia to back away from their price-cutting war. But by midday, most Asian markets had retreated.

U.S. data showing 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment this week were a “hard dose of economic reality,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda in a report.

That was double the previous week’s record-breaking U.S. job losses of 3.3 million. It raised the total number of Americans who are out of work due to the coronavirus-driven downturn to almost 10 million.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London sank 0.9% to 5,428.89 and Frankfurt’s DAX shed 0.1% to 9,559.80. The CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.5% to 4,197.80.

On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 1%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 gained 2.3% after Trump said he expects production cuts are coming after talking with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.2% and the Nasdaq rose 1.7%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6% to 2,763.99 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.5 points to 17,820.19. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.2% to 23,236.11 after falling as much as 0.8% earlier.

The Kospi in Seoul ended unchanged at 1,725.44 after being down 0.6%. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 1.7% to 5,067.50 and India’s Sensex lost 1.9% to 27,727.19.

New Zealand, Jakarta and Bangkok gained while Singapore retreated.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 18 cents to $25.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.38 to $31.27 per barrel in London.

Markets usually welcome lower energy costs for companies and consumers. But the abrupt plunge to below $20 this week from $60 at the start of the year triggered fears heavily indebted producers might default, undermining credit markets.

On Thursday, U.S. crude surged $5.01, or almost 25%, to $25.32 per barrel following Trump’s comments. The Kremlin denied President Vladimir Putin had talked with the prince but Saudi Arabia called for a meeting of major producers including Russia.

Roughly one of every 16 working Americans has applied for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks. Economists expect that to rise. That has many investors bracing for what may be the worst recession of their lifetimes.

Traders expect more volatility until numbers of new coronavirus cases begin to decline, which forecasters say might be weeks away.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has topped 1 million, led by the United States with more than 236,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 51,000 have died, but more than 208,000 have recovered.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The dollar edged up to 108.23 yen from Thursday’s 107.90 yen. The euro declined to $1.0798 from $1.0856.