Global stocks and US futures move higher on signs of pickup in China's economy

Posted April 13, 2020 6:57 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2020 4:42 a.m. EDT

— Global markets and US stocks futures moved higher Tuesday after trade data suggested that China's economy is performing better than expected as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan's Nikkei 225 added 3.1% and South Korea's Kospi gained 1.7%. The Shanghai Composite rose 1.6%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6%. Most European markets gained as traders returned from the Easter holiday, with Germany's DAX adding 1% and France's CAC 40 up 0.2%.

Trade data for March showed that Chinese exports dropped 6.6% last month in US dollar terms, a much better performance than the 14% decline forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts. Imports dropped just 0.9%, a big improvement on the expected 9.5% decline. In January and February combined, exports fell 17.2%, while imports dropped 4%.

US stock futures built on early gains after the March data was published. Dow futures were last up 300 points, or around 1.3%. S&P 500 futures were also up about 1.3%, while Nasdaq futures were up around 1.5%.

The improving data indicates that China's economy is slowly returning to normal, according to analysts. But exports are likely still in trouble as the rest of the world contends with disruption caused by the virus, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist for Capital Economics.

"Although supply-side disruptions to factory activity have now eased, foreign demand will slump this quarter as Covid-19 weighs on economic activity outside of China," he wrote in a Tuesday research note.

Capital Economics analysts expect China's GDP could plunge 16% in the first quarter compared to last year, one of the most severe estimates. China will report GDP on Friday.

In the United States, Wall Street is looking ahead to a slew of major earnings. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Johnson & Johnson are among the first companies to start off earnings season, reporting numbers on Tuesday.

US stocks slipped Monday, paring historic gains from last week's rally, as investors prepare for the earnings season. The Dow closed down 1.4%, or 329 points. The S&P 500 finished down 1% and the Nasdaq finished up 0.5%.

Covid-19 has infected more than 1.9 million people and killed at least 119,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US oil futures were last up 0.2% to trade at $22.45 a barrel. Futures for Brent, the global oil benchmark, gained 0.6% to trade at $31.92 a barrel. Oil prices barely budged Monday, remaining near 18-year lows as investors decided that the historic OPEC+ production cuts are not nearly deep enough to erase the epic supply glut facing the oil market.

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