Stocks boosted by US-China talks ahead of key American jobs data

Oil prices also climbed as countries moved ahead with plans to relax economic and social lockdowns

A currency trader in the foreign exchange dealing room of KEB Hana Bank in Seoul. Asian markets were lifted on Friday on signs of improving US-China relations. AP
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Global shares rallied on Friday as investors cheered signs of improving US-China relations and looked towards more governments gradually reopening their economies.

The positive mood stands in sharp contrast to the economic data. US unemployment numbers that were due later on Friday are expected to be the worst in a lifetime as the coronavirus pandemic ravages economies.

Top US and Chinese trade representatives discussed their phase one trade deal on Friday, with China saying they agreed to improve the atmosphere for itsexecution and the US saying both sides expected obligations to be met.

Asian markets were lifted by news of a phone call between US and China trade representatives.

This calmed investors' fears about renewed trade tensions after US President Donald Trump and other top officials blamed China for the deaths of hundreds of thousands from the new coronavirus and threatened punitive action, including possible tariffs and shifting supply chains away from China.

"The threat of a breakdown in negotiations for now at least has been averted,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of G10 FX strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.

"Of course, the president continues to persist with some of his comments regarding the coronavirus outbreak, but at least from the trade side it looks as though the participants involved have dialled down the temperature a little bit."

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up 0.6 per cent at 339.86 points, Germany's DAX surged 0.75 per cent to 10,840 and France's CAC 40 climbed 0.6 per cent to 4,526.

US stock futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.92 per cent to 2,906.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was half a per cent higher, while MSCI's main European Index was up 0.64 per cent.

Oil prices also climbed as countries including Australia moved ahead with plans to relax economic and social lockdowns put in place to halt the pandemic, kindling market hopes for a boost in demand for crude and its products.

Brent crude was up 2.6 per cent, at $30.23 per barrel, while US oil gained 4.5 per cent to $24.61 a barrel. Both contracts are heading for a second week of gains after the lows of April.

The unemployment data due later in the day is expected to show a historic hit to the US labour market.

Forecasters expect the US economy to lose a staggering 22 million jobs in April, in what would be the steepest plunge in payrolls since the Great Depression and the starkest sign yet of how the pandemic is affecting the world's top economy.

"The situation on the US labour market is a disaster – that is no secret," wrote Commerzbank strategist Thu Lan Nguyen in a note to clients.

"And today everyone’s attention is going to focus on the labour market report for April to find out just how bad the disaster is."