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World stock markets slip on second wave virus fears, safe-havens rise

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Global stock markets drifted lower on Thursday as an increase in new coronavirus cases in some U.S. states and China crushed hopes of a swift economic comeback from the pandemic, underpinning demand for safe-haven currencies such as the dollar and Japanese yen.

Traders wear masks as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The daily count of infections hit a new milestone in California and Texas, while around 400 workers tested positive for the virus at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany, prompting the closure of local schools.

A Chinese medical expert, meanwhile, said Beijing has brought its recent outbreak under control.

U.S. Treasury yields fell and crude oil rose as worries about fuel demand following the rising coronavirus cases were offset by U.S. government data showing lower inventories of gasoline and distillates, indicating higher demand.

Justin Onuekwusi, portfolio manager at Legal & General Investment Management, said the flare-ups in Germany and China and the rise in infection rates in some U.S. states were cause for concern.

“It’s going to be a theme where we see economies having to do mini-lockdowns and isolation measures in order to contain the virus. The question is how much it affects markets,” he said.

U.S. data that suggested a declining pace of Americans filing for unemployment benefits has stalled amid a second wave of layoffs reminded investors the economy faces a long and difficult recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

Employers hired a record 2.5 million workers in May as businesses reopened, an unexpected bright spot that investors cheered last week. But at least 29 million people are collecting unemployment checks, a sign of the tough road ahead.

“The restarting of the economy is going to be slow, it’s going to be uneven and initial jobless claims today reflect that,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco.

As the economy reopens and economic activity increases, infection rates are rising, which Hooper said raises the question: What happens if that continues? Many states will not impose lockdowns to allow economic activity to continue, she said.

“You could have a situation where infections continue to rise, but it doesn’t necessarily have the impact on economic activity that it did in March and April,” Hooper said.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.05%, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.84%. Emerging market stocks bucked the trend, rising 0.13%.

Wall Street was mostly lower but the Nasdaq and S&P 500 pulled slightly ahead.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 1.03 points, or -0%, to 26,118.58, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 3.13 points, or 0.10%, to 3,116.62 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 35.04 points, or 0.35%, to 9,945.57.


China’s blue-chip CSI300 shares .CSI300 were a bright spot, adding 0.7%, helped by reassurances from its central bank governor that the world’s second-largest economy would maintain ample financial liquidity in the second half of 2020 as the economy recovers.

Euro zone bonds hardly budged, even as the European Central Bank announced record demand for its new round of cheap loans, with the strong take-up expected to support the bond market.

Italian yields slipped slightly, with 10-year yields falling to a new low since late March of 1.33%. They were last down 3.5 basis points at 1.34%. IT10YT=RR

British government bond yields touched their highest since June 10 after the Bank of England increased its bond-buying program by another 100 billion pounds ($125 billion) to help revive the economy, but sharply slowed the pace of its purchases. [L8N2DV2K2]

In currency markets, the yen touched a six-day high of 106.70 in Asian trading and was last neutral at 107 JPY=EBS.

The Norwegian crown was the biggest mover among major currencies, after Norway’s central bank said the country’s economic prospects had improved more than expected in recent weeks and its key policy interest rate would be kept unchanged.

The crown was up 0.6% versus the dollar at 9.4560 NOK=D3.

The dollar index =USD rose 0.241%, with the euro EUR= down 0.17% to $1.1224. The yen strengthened 0.20% versus the greenback at 106.79 per dollar.

FILE PHOTO: A street cleaning operative walks past the London Stock Exchange Group building in the City of London financial district, whilst British stocks tumble as investors fear that the coronavirus outbreak could stall the global economy, in London, Britain, March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR fell 3.3 basis points to yield 0.7019%.

U.S. crude CLc1 rose 1.24% to $38.43 per barrel and Brent LCOc1 was at $41.20, up 1.2% on the day.

In commodity markets, spot gold XAU= dropped 0.3% to $1,720.77 an ounce. [/GOL]

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Stocks waver on rising COVID cases, dollar in safety bidding

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global equity markets closed little changed on Wednesday as a rally on economic and vaccine hopes faded, while fresh coronavirus outbreaks and rising geopolitical tensions in Asia boosted demand for the dollar and safe-haven debt.

Optimism over a quick economic recovery has been tempered by more global cases of the coronavirus, including an outbreak in Beijing and a rising tide of infections in U.S. states that are reopening their economies.

New cases hit a record level in Oklahoma just days before President Donald Trump’s expected campaign rally in Tulsa.

U.S. Treasury yields and crude prices fell on these concerns but also drew support from stimulus measures and positive tests of a drug trial for dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid that could save some critically ill COVID-19 patients.

The dollar mostly rose as investors wary of wider geopolitical risks sought its relative safety as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified for a second day before Congress.

The Fed will use its “full range of tools” to cushion households and businesses, Powell told lawmakers, echoing remarks he made on Tuesday that were welcomed by investors.

Rising tensions between North and South Korea spurred demand for safe havens, as did clashes between Indian and Chinese troops at a disputed border site.

“There’s a bit of afterglow from yesterday,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

But after a 50-day rally in equities from March lows that was the sharpest on record, a period of several months where the market doesn’t do much can be expected, Arone said.

“We’re seeing that struggle, that tug of war, that friction play out already this month,” Arone said. “June hasn’t been a straight shot to the moon. That’s what you’re likely going to see for the balance of the summer, not a bad thing.”

Traders wear masks as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

European shares closed higher, adding to their best gains in almost a month a day earlier. But the Nikkei overnight in Tokyo eased 0.5% after posting its biggest daily gain in three months the prior day.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.04%, pulled lower as U.S. stocks, which account for more than half the world benchmark’s performance, diverged.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 170.37 points, or 0.65%, to 26,119.61 and the S&P 500 lost 11.25 points, or 0.36%, to 3,113.49. The Nasdaq Composite added 14.67 points, or 0.15%, to 9,910.53.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.74% while emerging market stocks rose 0.44%.

Chinese blue chips recovered from an early dip to finish steady despite Beijing’s worst resurgence in COVID-19 cases in four months.

“The tension between better economic data and rising COVID-19 cases continues to drive market volatility,” said Antoine Bouvet, senior rates strategist at ING in London.

The dollar lost strength as the day’s trading closed. The dollar index rose 0.123%, with the euro down 0.22% to $1.1238. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.28% versus the greenback at 107.06 per dollar.

Benchmark 10-year notes fell 2.6 basis points to yield 0.7282%. The 10-year German Bund rose 0.7 basis point to yield -0.418. [GVD/EUR]

Oil prices swung in and out of the red amid an increase in U.S. crude inventories.

U.S. crude fell 42 cents to settle at $37.96 a barrel, while Brent settled down 25 cents at $40.71.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Gold prices were little changed, buoyed by concerns over a second coronavirus wave and expectations for low interest rates in the near term. But a firm dollar put a lid on gains.

U.S. gold futures settled slightly down at $1,735.60 an ounce.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Wall Street rally wins more fans as economy hints at recovery

(Reuters) – Record upside surprises in U.S. economic data are bolstering the case for a “V” shaped recovery from the COVID-19 recession and boosting investor confidence in a stock rally that has already delivered hefty gains in recent months.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Citigroup’s Economic Surprise Index .CESIUSD, which tracks economic data relative to economists’ expectations, hit a record high this month, reflecting recent turnarounds in key areas such as unemployment that have helped extend the S&P 500’s gain to 40% since late March. The stock index jumped 1.9% on Tuesday, helped by a record surge in May retail sales.

(GRAPHIC – Could it be a ‘V’?: here)

The improving data, along with signals that the Federal Reserve remains ready to backstop the U.S. economy, have eased concerns that the stocks rally has ignored the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic and resulting lockdowns.

“The safety-net (Fed Chair Jerome) Powell has put in place is not going away any time soon,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA. “While we will see the economy struggle, you won’t likely see a sustained pullback in equities because of all the stimulus that has been thrown at the market.”

Many investors doubt the market’s rebound can run much further. A recent surge of COVID-19 cases in some U.S. states and a new cluster of cases in China have raised concerns over a coronavirus resurgence, while subdued demand for commodities such as oil signal a potentially slow comeback in global growth.

Influential U.S. investors, including David Tepper and Stanley Druckenmiller, in May described markets as over-valued and with terrible risk-reward, with Druckenmiller dismissing V-recovery hopes as “a fantasy.”

Still, the ranks of doubters have thinned lately, while bullish sentiment has grown. The percentage of fund managers who believe the bounce is a bear market rally that will eventually reverse fell to just over half in June, from more than two-thirds last month, a survey from BofA Global Research showed.

“Positive sentiment begets positive sentiment,” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. “People are starting to think that this is not a bear market rally, that this is more permanent.”

The market’s gains also appear to be attracting inflows of cash from the sidelines. Cash levels among fund managers in BofA’s survey registered their biggest drop in more than a decade in June, and net equity exposure among hedge funds soared to 52% from 34% in May.

Investors poured a net $20.4 billion into equity-focused mutual funds in the week ending June 10, the largest one-week inflow since 2007, Lipper data showed.

(GRAPHIC – U.S. Domestic Stock Fund Flows: here(1).png)

The rally has exacerbated some investor concerns, including those over stock valuations. The S&P 500’s forward price/earnings ratio, a closely followed valuation metric, now stands at 22, a level that was last seen 20 years ago, during the dot-com boom.

For many investors, “it’s still love/hate,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading. “If you’re a fund manager, you have to be in the market because you have to beat your benchmark, so a lot of managers have to get in there and performance chase.”

(GRAPHIC – S&P 500 forward PE hits dot-com highs: here)

At the same time, gains in the prices of oil and some other commodities have slowed in recent weeks, raising concerns that weak demand for raw materials may indicate a lackluster worldwide recovery.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast the global economy could contract by 7.6% if the world sees a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

Still, there are signs that investors remain bullish despite the market’s recent gains. The proportion of investors buying S&P 500 bullish call options versus bearish put options rose sharply last week, suggesting some traders are betting the market will continue rising.

Reporting by Noel Randewich; additional reporting by April Joyner in New York; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili and Dan Grebler

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Asian stocks set to rise as drug trials, data push Wall Street higher

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Asian stocks were set to climb on Wednesday after another late Wall Street surge in response to upbeat trial results for a COVID-19 treatment and data showing U.S. consumers spent big in May.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, is silhouetted in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The prospects of fresh support from the Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan also supported global equity markets.

“It was a trifecta of positives today,” said Jeffrey Carbone, a partner at North Carolina-based Cornerstone Wealth, referring to the U.S. data, drug trials and central bank promises.

The upbeat sentiment weighed of U.S. Treasuries and supported demand for lower-rated southern European debt. Not everyone was in the mood for risk, however, with safe-have gold pushed higher on news of a fresh coronavirus outbreak in China.[GOL/]

“We got potentially more positive news in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But while COVID is in most people’s minds, in the stock market’s view it is all about reopening and the strong data suggest the recovery is happening and faster than most expected.”

At the beginning of his two-day testimony before Congress, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said a full recovery was unlikely until the public is confident the disease had been contained.

In Asia, Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures were up 0.5%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures were up 0.2% but down 0.6% from the underlying index’s Tuesday close.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were down 0.3%.

U.S. retail sales jumped a record 17.7% in May, blowing past the 8% increase analysts expected and supporting views the U.S. recession might be drawing to an end.

Also cheering investors were trial results showing dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, reduced death rates by about one-third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.0%, the S&P 500 gained 1.9% and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.8%. That followed a broad 3% rally in major European bourses.

The MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 2.2%.

News elsewhere contributed to the bullish sentiment.

Germany’s monthly ZEW investor sentiment survey showed investors are confident that Europe’s largest economy will be over the worst of the coronavirus impact by the end of the European summer.

The dollar was mostly stronger, with the euro down 0.55% to $1.126 and the Japanese yen up 0.01% at 107.32.

The British pound rose on unemployment numbers that were not as bad as feared and friendlier Brexit talks.[GBP/]

The BOJ increased its lending packages for cash-strapped firms to $1 trillion from about $700 billion, while keeping rates steady, sticking to its view that the Japanese economy will gradually recover from the pandemic.

The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury notes rose 4.7 basis points to 0.7495%.

German, French, Dutch and other core yields also rose. Riskier Italian yields fell to their lowest level since the end of March, and the iTraxx European crossover index, which reflects the cost of insuring against junk-rated corporate bond defaults, fell to its lowest level in six days. [GVD/EUR]

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Sam Holmes

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