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Stocks climb as G20 pledges $5tn to counteract coronavirus crisis

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
·2-min read
A stock trader looks at his screens during a trading session at Frankfurt's stock exchange as markets react on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 16, 2020.   REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
A stock trader looks at his screen during a trading session at Frankfurt's stock exchange. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Stocks climbed on both sides of the Atlantic on Thursday even after US unemployment claims surged to a record-breaking 3.3 million last week, reflecting the severe economic impact of the spiralling coronavirus pandemic.

Investors were optimistic that US president Donald Trump could sign a $2tn (£1.7tn) stimulus package as soon as Friday, while nations in the G20 on Thursday pledged to inject over $5tn into the global economy to curb the crisis.

“We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat,” the G20 said in a statement, noting that it supported targeted fiscal and economic measures, as well as guarantee schemes.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) rose by 1.32%, and looked set for its third straight day of gains.

London’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose by more than 0.7%, while Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up by around 3%.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was nearly 1% in the green. Stocks in Italy and Spain also climbed.

Analysts had widely expected a jobless figure in the millions, with some estimating that as many as four million Americans signed on for unemployment benefits in the week ending 21 March, up from 281,000 in the previous week.

In the US, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) was up by more than 4%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI), climbed by over 5%, while shares on the Nasdaq (^IXIC) were up by around 3.6%.

Read more: Unemployment benefit claims skyrocket to 3.3 million

The seasonally adjusted 2.3 million figure is nonetheless far above consensus estimates, which predicted that 1.6 million people filed a claim with state unemployment agencies.

The raw figures, which do not take into account the typical shifts in supply and demand related to changing seasons, show that 2.9 million people filed for the benefits.

(David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
(David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The strong trading sessions in the US and Europe followed losses for stocks in Asia, where leaders are increasingly fearful about a fresh wave of coronavirus cases.

Read more: Zoopla warns coronavirus will paralyse UK property market

The governor of Tokyo has called on people in the city to stay at home this weekend “at all costs” in order to prevent an “explosion” in cases in Japan, while fears grew about the impact of the pandemic on Hong Kong’s health system.

China’s SSE Composite Index (^SSEC) fell by 0.6% on Thursday, while the Hang Seng (^HSI) was down by more than 0.7% in Hong Kong at market close.

Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) fell by 4.5%, while the KOSPI Composite Index (^KOSPI) in South Korea closed almost 1.1% in the red.

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