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Asian stocks higher after Trump promise of virus aid


BEIJING — Major Asian stock markets were higher Wednesday after Wall Street rebounded on President Donald Trump's promise of aid to get the U.S. economy through the coronavirus outbreak.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong all advanced. Australia's main index fell 5% and smaller Asian markets were mixed.

The White House proposal could approach $1 trillion in spending to ward off the pressure of business closures to contain the virus. The Federal Reserve announced more measures to keep financial markets operating.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index rose by an unusually wide daily margin of 6%, regaining just under half of the previous day's history-making loss. Professional investors expect more big daily swings in both directions until the spreading virus is brought under control.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump wants to send checks to Americans in the next two weeks to help support them while more parts of the economy come closer to shutting down.

The proposal would include $250 billion for small businesses and $50 billion for airlines.

The measures are a good start but investors need to see the number of infections slow before markets can find a bottom, analysts said. The number of new cases reported in China, where the virus emerged in December, is declining but infections in the United States, Europe and elsewhere are increasing.

“The wash-up has been some signs of green shoots of risk appetite emerging, and some further concerning aspects,” said Chris Weston of Pepperstone Group in a report. “I am not going to call a bottom in the risk story by any means.”

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.3% to 2,814.70 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 1.9% to 17,342.71. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5% to 23,384.51.

Those three markets account for the bulk of the region's stock value.

The Kospi in Seoul gained 0.5% to 1,682.12 in early trading. Australia's S&P-ASX 200 fell 5% to 5,029.70.

Market benchmarks in New Zealand and Singapore rose 2% while Manila fell 7.9%, reopening after it was closed on Tuesday. Bangkok surged 2%.

Investors say they need to see the number of infections slow before markets can find a bottom.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and those with mild illness recover in about two weeks. Severe illness including pneumonia can occur, especially in the elderly and people with existing health problems, and recovery could take six weeks in such cases.

On Tuesday, European stocks swung from gains to losses and back to gains.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose to 2,529.10. It still is down 25.3% from last month's record.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 5.2% to 21,237.38. A day earlier, the Dow lost nearly 3,000 after Trump said a recession may be on the way.

The virus has spread so quickly that its effects haven’t shown up in much U.S. economic data yet.

A report on Monday about manufacturing in New York State was the first piece of evidence that manufacturing is contracting due to the outbreak. On Tuesday, a report showed retail sales weakened in February, when economists had been expecting a gain.

“The global recession is here and now,” S&P Global economists wrote in a report Tuesday.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude gained 4 cents to $26.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.75 to $26.95 on Tuesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, gained 28 cents to $29.01 per barrel.

The dollar was trading at 107.17 Japanese yen, down from 107.67 late Tuesday. The euro was at $1.1021, up from $1.10999.

Joe McDonald, The Associated Press

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