Oil extends gains after record rally but stocks struggle
April 3, 2020 03:35 PM
Crude prices bounced back from earlier losses Friday, to extend the previous day's record surge following reports that OPEC had called an emergency meeting for next week.
The news reinforced optimism in the embattled oil market after Donald Trump claimed Russia and Saudi Arabia were set to slash output.
However, equities struggled into the weekend after another thunderous rise in US jobless claims highlighted the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus.
As the number of people with COVID-19 tops a million and the death toll continues to climb, investors remain hostage to uncertainty as they try to gauge the long-term economic impact of the pandemic, which is widely expected to plunge the planet into recession.
But with trillions of dollars pledged in government support, the wild volatility that characterised markets at the start of the crisis has given way to some form of stability. And providing a much-needed shot in the arm Thursday was a tweet by the US president that said Moscow and Riyadh could slash oil output to end their vicious price war, which sent crude prices to near-two-decade lows last month.
Trump said he had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who he claimed had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!" Trump tweeted. "Could be as high as 15 Million Barrels," he added in a subsequent post.
The news sent crude soaring, with Brent at one point rising almost 50 percent and WTI around 35 percent. Brent eventually pared gains to end up 21 percent and WTI 25 percent, still a record jump for either contract.
Doubts began to grow after the Kremlin denied Putin had spoken to the crown prince.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, did call for a meeting of OPEC and other major producers led by Russia to "stabilise the oil market", just one day after the kingdom boosted supplies to record levels.
But optimism was given a boost as it emerged the producers will hold talks Monday to discuss the state of the crude crisis.
Both main contracts posted gains Friday, with Brent surging back above $31, having started the day with losses.
Equity markets were choppy after data showed 6.7 million US workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of the 3.3 million the week before as the coronavirus forced businesses nationwide to close their doors.
And as health officials warn the toll from the disease will get worse before the situation improves, experts are tipping further economic pain.
"With more and more investors turning their attention to the economic impact of the pandemic, these negative early indicators could weigh heavily on risk assets, at least short term," said Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman.
And Stephen Dover, at Franklin Templeton, told Bloomberg TV: "We are not going to have the real recovery in the market until what we think is the peak in the amount of infections and deaths. We are going to continue to have very wide volatility until we can get over this uncertainty."
On Friday, the Asian Development Bank said the pandemic could cost the global economy more than $4 trillion -- about five percent of output -- as it ravages the United States, Europe and other major economies.
The estimate was based on a range of scenarios, it said, and added that losses from "the worst pandemic in a century" could be higher. It also tipped Asian growth to come in at just 2.2 percent this year, the worst since the region's financial crisis 22 years ago, while China's GDP was tipped to expand 2.3 percent.
Tokyo and Seoul ended barely moved, Hong Kong shed 0.2 percent and Shanghai ended down 0.6 percent. Sydney and Mumbai fell more than one percent, Singapore shed more than two percent and Bangkok dipped 0.4 percent.
But there were gains in Jakarta and New Zealand. In early trade, London, Paris and Frankfurt were all in negative territory. "The market appears to be going through a common theme these days, to gradually de-risk on Friday in the COVID-19 environment," said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.
"The risk-friendly reaction to an unfathomable rise in jobless claims amid a lip-serviced prospect of a US-brokered oil supply deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia means investors are happy with both market positioning and the degree of an economic slowdown that is baked into the cake."