As virus lockdowns lift, investors search for signs of rebounds

As governments start to lift restrictions, stocks are rising worldwide. In the U.S., the spotlight will be on the big companies that have helped the S&P 500 halve its losses since February. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet are all scheduled to report earnings this week. 

Ahn Young-joon/AP
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, April 27, 2020. Some investors look beyond the devastation now sweeping economies toward growth returning in the future.

Stocks around the world rose Monday as governments prepare to gradually lift restrictions they imposed on businesses to slow the sweep of the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 was up 1% at mid-day Monday, the start of a week chockablock with market-moving events. Several of the world's largest central banks are meeting, including the Bank of Japan, which announced its latest stimulus measures to prop up markets.

A rush of the biggest U.S. companies are also scheduled to report how much profit they made in the first three months of 2020, including the handful most instrumental in getting the S&P 500 to rally over the last month. More importantly, they may also talk about how they see future conditions shaking out, as some investors look beyond the devastation sweeping economies now to growth potentially returning in the future.

"Investors have written off 2020 as a shocker and are looking more intently into the landscape in 2021," Chris Weston of Pepperstone wrote in a report.

Treasury yields crept higher in an indication of less pessimism in the market, but crude tanked again in the latest extreme swing that's dominated oil markets in recent weeks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 269 points, or 1% as of 1 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq was up 1 %, too.

In the United States, the spotlight will be on the behemoth companies that have most helped the S&P 500 roughly halve its loss since the index began falling from its record in February.

The S&P is down only about 17% since then, but the median company in the index is down 28% from its high, according to Goldman Sachs. A big reason for that is that a group of just five companies makes up a fifth of the index by market value. Because the S&P 500 – and index funds that form the core of many 401(k) accounts – move based on changes in market value, the performance of the big five overshadow those of smaller companies. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google's parent, Alphabet, are all scheduled to report this week. 

Asian markets began the day with gains after Japan's central bank scrapped its ceiling on how much government debt it will buy to support the economy. The Bank of Japan also said it will buy an additional 15 trillion yen ($140 billion) of commercial paper and bank loans.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 2.7%, while South Korea's Kospi added 1.8%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 1.9%.

In Europe, Spain plans to start easing restrictions Sunday and Italy on May 4. France will announce its plans next month.

The German DAX returned 2.5%, while the French CAC 40 rose 1.6%, and the FTSE 100 in London added 1.3%.

Other potentially market-moving events this week include data from the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, and France on inflation, trade, unemployment, industrial activity, and retail spending.

Leaders of the U.S. Federal Reserve are likely to announce they will wait to see the impact of earlier stimulus before taking more action, Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank said in a report. The European Central Bank "will likely keep its options for easing open."

President Donald Trump, who is up for re-election this fall, is pressing U.S. state governors to ease anti-disease controls as early as possible.

Some states are lifting shutdown orders despite warnings that it could cause a surge in infections. Others, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, say they want a bigger decline in new cases before rolling back curbs.

Signs of optimism are rising even in New York, though. The state hardest-hit by COVID-19 on Sunday reported the number of daily deaths had more than halved from the peak. Construction and manufacturing jobs that represent low risks for workers will be among the first to resume once New York state begins reopening after the coronavirus shutdown, Mr. Cuomo said Sunday.

In energy markets, the cost for a barrel of U.S. oil to be delivered in June sank 28% to $12.23 per barrel. Prices have been swinging wildly as demand for energy collapses amid the halt to global economies and as storage tanks come close to topping out.

Brent crude, the international standard, fell 7% to $23.08 per barrel.

One casualty of the plunge in oil prices, Houston, Texas-based contract driller Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., filed for bankruptcy Sunday with debts of $2.6 billion. It said conditions had deteriorated sharply with the pandemic and the recent price war between Russia and other producers.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed.

Editor’s note: As a public service, the Monitor has removed the paywall for all our coronavirus coverage. It’s free.

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