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Coronavirus: Markets stage fightback on hopes of $850bn US stimulus

Stock markets are staging a fightback despite a gradual shutdown in the global economy as coronavirus takes its toll on life as we know it.Market analysts pegged tentative gains to hopes of a $850bn stimulus programme for the US economy and further support for financial markets from the country’s central bank. London’s blue-chip index closed…

Stock markets are staging a fightback despite a gradual shutdown in the global economy as coronavirus takes its toll on life as we know it.

Market analysts pegged tentative gains to hopes of a $850bn stimulus programme for the US economy and further support for financial markets from the country’s central bank.

London’s blue-chip index closed 2.8% higher at 5,294 after details of the US proposals, aimed at limiting the financial impact of COVID-19, became available.

The FTSE 100 fell more than 500 points at the open in London to below 6,000 points

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Many traders are working from home amid efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19

The extent of the damage resulting from the outbreak is growing daily.

Among the companies reporting disruption in the UK on Tuesday, Nissan said it was ceasing production at its Sunderland plant while Laura Ashley became the first retailer to stand on the brink of collapse.

Gatwick Airport said it had cut 200 jobs, with bosses taking a pay cut, and was limiting operations as airline services grind to a halt.

Catering firm Compass Group saw its shares dive 15% after the UK government toughened its social distancing advice to include pubs, theatres and restaurants, when it forecast half-yearly operating profit would be well below expectations.

The steady feed of negative news prompted the Lloyd’s of London insurance market to ask its members for estimates of their potential current and final losses from coronavirus globally.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened more than 2% higher after its biggest daily points loss on record in the previous session.

Gains accelerated when it emerged the US stimulus package, proposed by Donald Trump’s administration, was being put to political leaders on Capitol Hill.

It was said to include the Federal government writing cheques for American households and $50bn in support for airlines.

The number of tax payments eligible to be deferred had already been raised, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters.

He added that he supported financial markets remaining open during the crisis but raised the prospect of trading hours being restricted in the New York Stock Exchange to minimise COVID-19 infection risks.

The President promised, at a news conference, that the package of measures being considered would be “big” and “bold”.

The UK’s Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is expected to build on his budget stimulus through further announcements on Tuesday.

ING analysts said in a note: “The main worry seems to be the central banks running out of policy space needed to combat the impact of the virus.

“And this now calls for a coordinated fiscal response by the governments.”

Wells Fargo Securities forecast a recession for the US in the April-June quarter and Joel Prakken, chief US economist at IHS Markit, projects the economy will shrink at a 5.4% annualised rate during the quarter.



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Francis Lun, a stock analyst in Hong Kong, said investors were going “bargain hunting”, adding: “It’s a see-saw battle between the bulls and the bears,” he added. “I think right now the bulls are winning the upper hand. The key is that Hong Kong is dirt cheap.”

Asia was also encouraged by news that US President Donald Trump’s administration could offer support to airlines affected by the outbreak as part of a package to help businesses.

Oil prices were also up, Brent crude climbing by 1.6% to $30.53 (£24.92) per barrel on Tuesday morning.

More than 175,000 people have been infected by COVID-19 worldwide, most of them in China. As at Tuesday morning, there were more than 1,500 cases in the UK and 55 people had died.

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