Global stocks mostly rise as markets shrug off weak data

©Agence France-Presse

Chairs at a restaurant in Essen, Germany, which has technically entered a recession amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

New York (AFP) - Global stocks were mostly firm Friday as investors shrugged off weak economic data from Germany and the United States and focused on the easing of lockdowns rather than on fears of another coronavirus wave.

Equity investors in Europe went fishing for bargains a day after stocks tanked on news of spiking jobless claims in the United States.

"After two down days for the markets, the week is ending on a more positive note for equities," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

The German economy shrank by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2020, federal statistics agency Destatis said, calling the quarter-on-quarter decline "the worst since the global financial crisis" in 2009.

The agency also revised its gross domestic product figure for the final quarter of 2019 from zero growth to a contraction of 0.1 percent. That means Germany has experienced two consecutive quarters of decline, meeting the technical definition of a recession.

In spite of that, the DAX 30 finished up 1.2 percent, with analysts viewing Germany as better situated than other eurozone members.

The downturn "was significantly smaller than the average for the eurozone and less than half the impact seen in the countries that saw the harshest lockdowns such as France and Spain," Oxford Economics said in a note.

On Wall Street, stocks were initially pressured following weak retail sales data and US actions against Chinese telecom giant Huawei that escalated Washington's tensions with Beijing.

But the Federal Reserve's muscular response to the coronavirus crisis has reassured equity investors, said Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services.

These programs include vehicles to purchase corporate debt, which means "solvent borrowers have a backup and that lifts their shares," he said.

In one bright spot for the US, the University of Michigan monthly survey showed consumer sentiment improved slightly in May, ticking up to 73.7 percent from 71.8 percent in April.

But Oxford Economics warned the bounce was "fragile," according to a note Friday. 

"Whether it can be sustained will depend in part on whether the government enacts further stimulus measures to help households and whether the relaxation of restrictions results in a resurgence in COVID-19 infections," the note said. 

Key figures around 2050 GMT

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 23,685.42 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.4 percent at 2,863.70 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.8 percent at 9,014.56 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.0 percent at 5,799.77 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.2 percent at 10,465.17 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 4,277.63 (close) 

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 2,7770.70 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 20,037.47 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 23,797.47 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 2,868.46 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 4.4 percent at $32.50 per barrel 

West Texas Intermediate: UP 5.9 percent at $29.43 per barrel 

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0818 from $1.0805 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.17 yen from 107.25 

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2107 from $1.2230 

Euro/pound: UP at 89.33 pence from 88.35 pence