Global stocks turn higher on more upbeat news about vaccines

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets pushed higher on Wednesday after the release of more upbeat data about the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Traders have this month been encouraged by announcements of progress toward possible vaccines and on Wednesday Pfizer said that the one it is developing is even more effective than first announced.

The statement comes as the company is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Investors are weighing optimism about vaccines against news that the infection numbers in the United States and Europe are high and rising in many cases, posing a threat to businesses.

On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.3% and 0.5%.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.3% to 6,374 and the DAX in Frankfurt gained 0.3% to 13,165. The CAC 40 in Paris rose 0.4% to 5,506.

On Tuesday, markets took a hit after new data show U.S. retail sales growth fell to 0.3% in October from September’s 1.6%. The figure fell short of forecasts for 0.5% growth.

That was “a warning shot that COVID-19 is still with us, and its effects will not miraculously disappear overnight,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said the American economy has a “long way to go” before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Powell warned the “next few months may be very challenging.” He said the Fed is committed to supporting a recovery.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2% to 3,347.30 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.5% to 26,544.29.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 1.1% to 25,728.14 after October exports declined 0.2% from a year earlier.

The Kospi in Seoul advanced 0.3% to 2,545.64 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 0.4% to 6,531.10. India’s Sensex gained 0.4% to 44,127.85.

Among the concerns for investors is whether the economy will get more stimulus. In Europe, a coronavirus relief package is being held up by a diplomatic dispute between Hungary and Poland and several other major EU countries.

In the U.S., extra unemployment benefits that helped to support consumer spending have expired. Progress on a possible new aid plan in Congress is slow.

“The concern is that people will lose confidence in efforts to control the pandemic,” Powell said. “We’re seeing signs of that already.”

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose 76 cents to $42.19 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 9 cents on Tuesday to $41.43. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, gained 82 cents to $44.57 per barrel in London. It lost 7 cents the previous session to $43.75.

The dollar declined to 103.97 yen from Tuesday’s 104.21 yen. The euro rose to $1.1869 from $1.1864.