Asian Shares Rise As More Countries Ease Virus Restrictions

Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Monday as hopes of reopening of economies and signs of a slowing coronavirus death rate in some of the world’s worst hit countries helped investors shrug off a staggering jump in U.S. job losses.

Chinese shares swung between gains and losses before ending little changed despite signs of support measures from China’s central bank.

The People’s Bank of China said on Sunday it would keep liquidity ample and continue to deepen interest rate reforms to help lower borrowing costs and allocate financial resources more efficiently in the economy.

China’s Shanghai Composite index ended marginally lower at 2,894.80, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 1.5 percent to 24,602.06.

Japanese shares hit a two-month high after the government indicated it was looking to lift coronavirus restrictions in “many of 34 prefectures” even before the nationwide deadline of May 31.

The Nikkei 225 Index rallied 211.57 points, or 1.1 percent, to 20,390.66, the highest level since March 6. The broader Topix closed 1.5 percent higher at 1,480.62.

Some Bank of Japan policymakers called for close coordination with the government for policy formulation so as to avoid a Great Depression amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Summary of Opinions at the Monetary Policy Meeting, held on April 27, showed today.

“Policy authorities must act decisively in order to avoid a second Great Depression,” the summary said. “Close cooperation between fiscal and monetary authorities in terms of their policies is essential at the time of a significant economic crisis.”

Australian markets followed Wall Street higher, with buying seen across the board as several Australian states relaxed physical distancing laws.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 70.10 points, or 1.3 percent, to 5,461.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 71.10 points, or 1.3 percent, at 5,559.10.

Beach Energy, Oil Search, Santos and Woodside Petroleum gained around 2 percent each after crude oil prices jumped more than 5 percent on Friday.

Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto rose between half a percent and 1.2 percent, while banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac gained between half a percent and 0.9 percent.

Incitec Pivot shares entered a trading halt after the industrial chemicals company announced a capital raising.

Cochlear soared 5.1 percent. After reporting a 60 percent drop in revenue last month due to the pandemic, the hearing implant manufacturer said it is looking to take advantage of JobKeeper subsidies and has slashed spending.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped 10.42 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,935.40 as the government on Sunday warned of a second wave of cases after a new cluster formed around a number of nightclubs.

New Zealand shares ended notably higher after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the move to “level 2” restrictions will mean retail, restaurants and other public spaces including playgrounds can reopen beginning Thursday.

“I am announcing that Cabinet agrees we are ready to move into level 2, to open up the economy, but to do it as safely as possible,” Ardern told a news conference.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 64.70 points, or 0.6 percent, to 10,760.29, with Sky Network Television shares surging 20.3 percent.

The total value of overall electronic spending in New Zealand plummeted a seasonally adjusted 48 percent in April, Statistics New Zealand said in a report today, following the 8.6 percent drop in March.

Separately, a preliminary business outlook survey from ANZ showed that New Zealand business confidence improved strongly in May as the economy emerges from lockdown. The corresponding index surged 21 points to -45.6 in May from -66.6 in April.

U.S. stocks posted strong gains on Friday after data showed the economy lost fewer jobs in April than feared due to the coronavirus crisis.

Data showed that U.S. non-farm employment plummeted by 20.5 million jobs in April, compared to expectations of 22.0 million.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 1.9 percent and the S&P 500 surged 1.7 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index jumped 1.6 percent to reach its best closing level in well over two months.

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