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Stock markets snapped a three-day losing streak on Tuesday and oil was on its longest run of gains in nine months as moves to ease major economies out of their coronavirus lockdowns lifted sentiment.
It was a turnaround from Monday, when bickering between Washington and Beijing triggered fresh selling, but traders have become used to sudden changes of direction in recent months and there were more to handle in Europe, too.
The pan-European STOXX 600 initially rose nearly 2% as a more than 6% jump in Brent prices and news that Total wasn’t cutting its dividend gave a 5% boost to battered oil stocks.
Things then started to get choppy again though when Germany’s top court ruled that the European Central Bank’s quantitative-easing programme “partially violated” the country’s constitution.
The euro and the region’s government debt fell, too, although the court also said the ECB’s measures didn’t amount to monetary financing - where a central bank bankrolls the government - something banned in Germany. The ruling also didn’t apply to the bank’s new coronavirus PEPP support programme.
“In practice, this should not restrict the ECB too much,” said Holger Schmiedling, chief economist at Berenberg. “However, Karlsruhe (German court) has emphasized that there are limits to bond purchases. This could make it more difficult for the ECB to expand PEPP.” In addition to the German court angst, eurozone producer prices fell the most in March since the 2008 financial crisis, Eurostat data showed.
The drop was more than expected as the COVID-19 pandemic reduced demand for energy. Prices at factory gates in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell 1.5% month-on-month in March and 2.8% year-on-year.
The euro traded down 0.65% at $1.0835, and a sell-off in bond markets pushed Italy’s ultra ECB-sensitive government yields up past 1.90% again.
That meant the US dollar index pushed higher for a second consecutive day, though the jump in oil meant the big petrocurrencies like Canada’s dollar, Norway’s crown and Russia’s rouble were all stronger.
With countries including the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, India, and Malaysia all tentatively easing lockdowns, the hope for oil producers is that the worst of the demand slump is now over.
Brent crude rose 7.8% to $29.32 a barrel, up for a sixth straight day, and US crude rose 10% to $22.43 a barrel for its fifth consecutive rise.
Energy giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron were also leading gains in premarket Wall Street trading where first quarter earnings reports were still rolling in and ISM’s non-manufacturing data was due later Analysts at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said the structure of the oil price rises, with bigger gains in nearer-dated contracts, suggested expectations of more production cuts and a restoration of fuel demand later this year.
They added, though, that this meant prices were unlikely to recover their huge declines since the start of the year.
“From a very top-down perspective, markets are reacting positively to measures governments and central banks have taken,” said Alistair Wittet, a European equity portfolio manager at Comgest.
“But we are still to see what the full economic consequences of all this will be... the real test will be when the markets start opening up and governments and central banks start withdrawing.”
Gold prices slipped on Tuesday as the US dollar strengthened and risk appetite among investors improved with moves by major economies to ease lockdowns related to the coronavirus crisis. Spot gold was down 0.3% at $1,696.34 per ounce at 1220 GMT. US gold futures fell 0.5% to $1,704.40 per ounce.
“The gradual reopening of various economies is the biggest driver right now which is lifting sentiment. Gold seems to be in consolidation mode at the moment and very sensitive to dollar moves,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said. “Investors may be a little too optimistic at this point, underestimating just how gradual a process this will be. The bullish case for gold still remains the enormous amounts of monetary stimulus in the system,” he added.
European stocks rose after a batch of positive corporate earnings reports added to optimism over the curbing of restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus.
Italy and the United States were among several countries to tentatively ease lockdowns on Monday to revive their economies. Further limiting gold’s appeal, the dollar index rose 0.3% against a basket of major currencies.
Market participants were also watching rising China-U.S. tensions after President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs on China for its handling of the virus outbreak.
The pandemic, which has battered global growth and prompted governments to unleash a wave of fiscal and monetary measures to limit economic damage, has infected about 3.6 million people globally and killed more than 250,000. Gold tends to benefit from widespread stimulus measures from central banks because it is widely viewed as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.
“Gold remains as a safe-haven as currencies are being devalued by massive stimulus programmes introduced by central banks and governments around the world to alleviate the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Phillip Futures said in note.
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