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Stocks surge as US government seeks to support economy during outbreak

Substantial aid for the airline industry is expected.


A trader works the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (AP)

A trader works the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (AP)

A trader works the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (AP)

US stocks jumped as American president Donald Trump promised he would be “going big” with plans to blunt the economic pain caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Markets around the world remain highly volatile as traders see a recession growing more likely – if it has not already begun.

The US market clawed back not quite half of what it lost in a breathtaking drop a day earlier, which was the biggest in more than three decades.

The S&P 500 rose 6% and the Dow rose 5.2%, or 1,049 points.

Mr Trump wants the US government to send cheques to Americans in the next two weeks to help support them, while chunks of the economy come closer to shutting down, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Gains for stocks accelerated temporarily as Mr Trump and Mr Mnuchin spoke at a White House briefing, but neither gave details about how big the stimulus could be.

Mr Mnuchin is pitching senate Republicans on a roughly 850 billion dollar (£691 billion) stimulus plan to help the economy, including relief for small businesses and the airline industry.

Investors have been waiting for Washington to offer more aid for the economy.

After flipping between gains and losses on Tuesday morning, stocks turned decisively higher after the US Federal Reserve revived a program first used in the 2008 financial crisis to help companies get access to cash for very short-term needs.

This is the latest in a string of big, emergency moves by the Fed and other central banks around the world to support the economy and smooth operations in markets.

Japan Financial Markets
The US stock market plunged to its worst day in more than three decades on Monday (AP)

No-one expects such moves to fix the health crisis, but investors hope they can help blunt the economic blow.

Barry Bannister, head of institutional equity strategy at Stifel, said: “Government tends to show up late to the party with a bazooka.

“It’s a bit of an overreaction, but that’s to be understood as normal for policymakers.”

Ultimately, investors say they need to see the number of infections slow before markets can find a bottom.

Worldwide cases now exceed 185,000. In the San Francisco area, nearly seven million people were all but confined to their homes in the nation’s most sweeping lockdown.

Trading was unsettled around the world. European stocks swung from gains to losses and back to gains.

South Korean stocks fell to their fifth straight loss of 2.5%, but Japanese stocks shook off an early loss to edge higher.

US Stocks have had a few rebounds since the market began selling off in mid-February on worries that Covid-19 will slam the economy and corporate profits.

All have ended up short-lived.

The S&P 500 has had four days in the last few weeks where it surged more than 4%, a remarkably large amount in normal times, and has slumped more than 2.8% the following day each time.

The virus has spread so quickly that its effects haven’t shown up in much US economic data yet.

A report on Monday about manufacturing in New York State was the first piece of evidence that manufacturing is contracting due to the outbreak. On Tuesday, a report showed that retail sales weakened in February, when economists had been expecting a gain.

“The global recession is here and now,” S&P Global economists wrote in a report Tuesday.

They say initial data from China suggests its economy was hit harder than expected, though it has begun to stabilise.

“Europe and the US are following a similar path,” the economists wrote.