Stock markets get boost from vaccine hopes

American biotech firm Moderna says it's in final stage of human trials for treatment

Imperial College London's COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Thomas Angus / Imperial College London
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Global stock markets received a shot in the arm from hopes for a coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, with the outlook for more US financial stimulus adding to a brighter mood.

Optimism was sparked by US biotech company Moderna saying it would start the final stage of human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at the end of the month, after a report said first-stage tests had been a success.

Pfizer and BioNTech also said that two of four possible vaccines had received "fast track" designation from US officials.

"It goes without saying that a vaccine will be the game-changer in the pandemic; the thing that will allow life to return to normal and businesses and households to thrive once again," said Craig Erlam, an analyst at the Oanda trading group.

"So it's hardly surprising that investors get a little excited when the results of these trials emerge, even those in the early stages."

European markets were as much as 2 per cent higher at the close, while US indexes won moderate gains. The S&P 500 finished up 0.9 per cent.

Also boosting optimism were signs that the US might add to its stimulus spending after reports said top Republicans were reconsidering opposition to the move.

Trillions of dollars pledged by the US and other governments and central banks around the world have been a key factor in stock markets rallying from their March lows, but one that is weighing on the US currency.

Strong US industrial output numbers released shortly before the opening of trade in New York added to the stock exchange's better mood.

Meanwhile, Apple shares rose after a European court ruled against the EU Commission, cancelling an order for the tech giant to repay Ireland €13 billion (Dh54.5bn/$14.84bn) in back taxes.

Goldman Sachs shares were up after the bank posted larger earnings than forecast, a day after JP Morgan Chase also outperformed expectations.

Oil prices rose, defying some doubts about Opec's willingness to maintain all of its recent production cuts for much longer, and finishing at their highest level in four months.

Analysts attributed part of the price rise to a sharp reduction in US inventories, but said crude was also lifted by renewed confidence in the economic outlook.

"Crude prices have risen along with other risk assets, such as stocks and copper," said Fawad Razaqzada at ThinkMarkets.

"Thus, some of their gains are entirely due to the ongoing risk-on rally.

Mr Razaqzada said that prices appeared to be "fairly balanced" at current levels.

New York - Dow: UP 0.9 per cent at 26,870.10 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.9 per cent at 3,226.56 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.6 per cent at 10,550.49 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.8 per cent at 6,292.65 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.8 per cent at 12,930.98 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 2.0 per cent at 5,108.98 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.7 per cent at 3,378.21 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.6 per cent at 22,945.50 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 24,481.58 (close)

Shanghai Composite: DOWN 1.6 per cent at 3,361.30 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.3 per cent at $41.20 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.1 per cent at $43.79 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1410 from $1.1400 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.92 yen from 107.24

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2589 from $1.2553

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.62 pence from 90.81