Equities barely up oil price rebound, stimulus hopes

Most major stock markets edged up slightly in mixed markets on Thursday as investors weighed a rebound in oil prices and prospects for further government stimulus against stark economic data showing the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Investors tilted toward emerging markets from safe-haven assets like the dollar and government bonds. Gold prices jumped as much as 1.5% to top a one-week high on hopes for the impact of stimulus spending.

Major U.S. indexes initially rose after news that U.S. jobless claims fell to 4.4 million, a decline from 5.2 million the week before, but still about 200,000 more than expected. A record 26 million Americans, representing 16% of the labor force, have sought unemployment benefits since March 21.

“The market is ignoring all the weak data so far, it’s priced in,” said Priya Misra, head of global rates strategy for TD Securities.

“We have moved ahead from the second quarter being awful,” Misra said, adding that market participants were turning toward the outlook for the third and fourth quarters.

A discouraging report at midday that Gilead Sciences experimental coronavirus drug flopped in its first randomized clinical trial cooled initial optimism that had major U.S. indexes up more than 1%.