Asia shares gain, Shanghai up slightly after Wall St rebound


BANGKOK (AP) — Shares advanced in Asia on Tuesday, with the Shanghai Composite up 0.2% after a rebound on Wall Street overnight.

Markets were still far from giving the all-clear on the virus outbreak that has spread to more than 20 countries and killed more than 400 people.

But calm returned after Monday’s 8% plunge in Shanghai, despite news that the number of people infected by the virus from China has risen to more than 20,000.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has declared the crisis the country’s biggest priority, as tens of millions of people remain in lockdown as a precaution against contagion.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.4% to 23,070.61, while the Kospi in South Korea jumped 1.7% to 2,154.95. Australia’s S&P ASX/200 rose 0.5% to 6,959.30, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 1.1% to 26,658.53. The Shanghai Composite was up 5.8 points at 2,752.44. Taiwan’s benchmark surged 1.9% and the Sensex in India gained 0.8%.

“The market is still, for the most part, in the fear mode, but as traders consume more economic data fallout, the hit to the real economy should become more apparent. Then the market will get steered by data, not opinions, or the herd mentality,” Stephen Innes of AxiCorp said in a commentary.

Overnight, U.S. stocks recovered some of their losses from earlier weeks, though a warning signal of recession in the bond market was still flashing red. and oil tumbled on worries about weakened demand. The S&P 500 rose 0.7%, to 3,248.92. The Dow Jones Industrial Average picked up 0.5%, to 28,399.81, and the Nasdaq added 1.3%, to 9,273.40.

Markets have been wracked by uncertainty over how much the virus will spread, how many it might kills and how long the outbreak might persist, hurting economies and corporate profits.

Some major companies have closed factories in central China, airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights and economists are cutting growth forecasts for the world’s second-largest economy.

The crisis struck just as investors believed economic growth would pick up thanks largely to interest-rate cuts and other bold actions by the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world. A report on Monday said U.S. manufacturing returned to growth in January for the first time in six months, but many investors paid little attention because it doesn’t fully reflect all the virus concerns.

“Think about what global central bankers are thinking about now” said Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management. She imagined them saying: “Are you kidding me? We pumped so much liquidity into the economy last year, and now the yield curve is inverting again?”

The yield curve is a tool used by investors that sits in the dusty corners of the bond market. Markets don’t pay it much attention until it becomes inverted, a relatively rare occurrence that happens when short-term Treasurys offer higher yields than longer-term Treasurys. An albeit imperfect rule of thumb says a recession may be a year or so away when the three-month Treasury’s yield is higher than a 10-year Treasury’s.

On Tuesday, the three-month yield was at 1.55%, above the 1.54% yield of the 10-year, which itself rose from 1.51% late Friday.

“Sentiment builds on sentiment, and there’s so much uncertainty right now,” Roland said. “We’re not ready to call the all-clear until we see a sustained re-acceleration not only in earnings estimates but also in the economic data.”

In the U.S. stock market, gains were relatively widespread on Monday with two stocks rising for every one falling. But nearly a quarter of the gain for the S&P 500 came from just two stocks: Microsoft and Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

These two, along with other tech behemoths, have increasingly been driving the market as the top five stocks in the S&P 500 account for roughly 18% of the index by market value. Alphabet will report its latest quarterly reports after markets close on Monday, while Microsoft reported much stronger-than-expected earnings last week.

Nike jumped 3.9% to help drive Dow Jones Industrial Average higher as investors continue to try to handicap how much its earnings will be hurt by the virus. It had dropped more than the rest of the market in earlier weeks because it depends on China not only to help make its shoes and athletic products but also to buy them. Nearly 18% of its revenue last quarter came from China.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 38 cents to $50.48 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It tumbled $1.45, or 2.8%, on Monday to settle at $50.11 per barrel on worries about demand. It had been above $63 toward the start of the year, before the virus outbreak. Brent crude, the international standard, added 30 cents to $54.75 per barrel. It fell $2.17, or 3.8%, to settle at $54.45 per barrel overnight.

In currency trading, the dollar was steady at 108.69 Japanese yen. The euro likewise was almost unchanged, at $1.1060.


AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.