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Stocks gain on hopes for virus medication, US stimulus boost

·3-min read
Growing evidence that Remdesivir helps those infected with Covid-19 has cheered markets, as effective treatments may help the economy return to normal
Growing evidence that Remdesivir helps those infected with Covid-19 has cheered markets, as effective treatments may help the economy return to normal

Global stocks mostly rose Friday amid increased hopes for a US stimulus package following the latest statements from President Donald Trump and rising confidence about coronavirus therapeutics.

Major US indices finished higher for a third straight session, with the tech-rich Nasdaq jumping 1.4 percent as the White House again shifted its stance on the talks.

Earlier, European bourses also climbed despite rising coronavirus cases in the continent.

After markets tanked on Tuesday following President Donald Trump's abrupt move to end stimulus talks, investors have cheered his about face in subsequent days that's seen him calling for a deal.

The White House on Friday beefed up its offer, proposing a $1.8 trillion package as Trump himself said on a radio show that he favored an even larger package.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was not enough time to complete the talks before the election.

Still, analysts said the gains reflected confidence there would be a package soon.

Markets also cheered a write-up in the New England Journal of Medicine reporting that Gilead Sciences's remdesivir drug resulted in "consistent, clinically meaningful improvements" in coronavirus patients, the latest positive indicator about a leading treatment.

That news follows announcements by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly earlier in the week on Covid-19 therapies that have boosted confidence in effectiveness of the treatments for the virus.

The market is "being stimulated more this week by the realization that there just might be a widespread, effective COVID treatment regimen that gets approved soon," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick J. O'Hare.

"The gist is that, the more confidence there is in potential treatment plans, the more confidence there will be in a potential return to normal activity," he added.

Analysts have also cited increased expectations that the US presidential election won't be contested, given challenger Joe Biden's widening lead over Trump in the polls. A drawn-out and litigious fight over the outcome has been a drag on sentiment in recent weeks.

- Madrid in semi-lockdown -

While US stimulus and the election are major drivers of markets, a surge in new virus infections in Europe is causing angst, with several countries reimposing fresh containment measures and considering localized lockdowns.

Spain's government declared a state of emergency and new partial lockdown for virus-hit Madrid, while in France, another four cities were placed on maximum coronavirus alert on Thursday, meaning they will have to shut bars and limit public gatherings.

Britain's economy expanded a weaker-than-expected 2.1 percent in August and remained far down from pre-pandemic levels, official data showed Friday, with the government expanding help for workers whose businesses are forced to close.

Despite a fourth consecutive monthly increase, gross domestic product was 9.2 percent below February's level, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

- Key figures around 1930 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: UP 0.6 percent at 28,586.90 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.9 percent at 3,4,77.14 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 1.4 percent at 11,579.94 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 6,016.65 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.1 percent at 13,051.23 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.7 percent at 4,946.81 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.5 percent at 3,273.12 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 23,619.69 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,119.13 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.7 percent at 3,272.08 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1828 from $1.1759 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3045 from $1.2938

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.61 yen from 106.03

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.67 pence from 90.89 

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.4 percent at $40.60 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.31.1 percent at $42.85 per barrel

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