May 12, 2020 / 1:05 PM / 15 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks rally grinds on as virus and trade nerves linger

* European stocks claw higher after weak session in Asia

* Oil firmer after surprise cut from Saudi Arabia

* BlackRock rethinking south European bond buying due to ECB angst

* China stresses benefits of recent trade deal with U.S.

* World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Marc Jones

LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) - Europe’s share markets, bond yields and the euro all inched higher on Tuesday, as mildly reassuring signals from China’s economy kept worries about a potential second wave of coronavirus infections at bay.

The moves were largely low key, with five new virus cases in Wuhan - the original epicentre of the outbreak - some festering trade tensions and a tussle over negative U.S. interest rates as consumer inflation plunged all part of the mix.

London’s FTSE, Frankfurt’s DAX and Milan and Madrid all shuffled higher as news that Vodafone would pay its dividend lifted the telecoms sector. But France’s CAC40 stayed in the red and it took time for Wall Street S&P 500 futures to turn positive after a disappointing Asian session.

Global stocks have rebounded sharply in recent weeks as both Asia and Europe’s big economies have been able to stem coronavirus outbreaks. It has triggered a so-called fear of missing out, or “FOMO”, from investors. But uncertainty has remained.

“We have had a rally that has not been loved by everybody,” said SEB investment management’s global head of asset allocation Hans Peterson.

“That rally might continue for a while longer, but we have probably gone on to a bit of a consolidation phase for now,” he said, adding that how quickly China’s economy can continue reopening and then how Europe and the United States fares in the coming weeks will both be key.

The latest signals from China had something for both the bulls and the bears.

As well as Wuhan’s five new cases, China reported that factory prices dropped at the fastest rate in four years in April and it emerged that Beijing had suspended imports from four large Australian meat processors.

But there was the first rise in car sales in 22 months to cheer, the removal of tariffs on some U.S imports and as the foreign ministry stressed the benefits of the recent Phase 1 U.S. trade deal following a report that some officials were reconsidering the agreement.

It had started the recovery in Wall Street futures which were up around 0.5% before data showing the fastest drop in consumer prices since 2008, pushed them back to 0.2% up.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside of Japan had ended down 0.8%, snapping two straight sessions of gains too.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was among the hardest hit, down 1.45% followed closely by Australia which closed 1% lower. South Korea’s KOSPI faltered 0.7% too but China’s blue-chip CSI300 index managed to recover from an early dip and finish flat.

GERMAN ANGST

Fund managers largely expect equity markets to stay the course through June and avoid retesting March lows given the massive monetary stimulus provided by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other major central banks.

Late on Monday, the Fed said it would start purchasing shares of exchange-traded funds that invest in bonds, though policymakers also downplayed the likelihood of its interest rates being cut into negative territory.

That had kept the dollar firm in Asia, but the euro gradually regained ground in European trading, leaving it up 0.1% at $1.0819.

The Japanese yen recovered an overnight loss of about 1% to sit at 107.55 per dollar and though the Aussie dollar stayed subdued, emerging market currencies rallied, including Turkey’s lira which had slumped to a record low last week.

In commodity markets, oil prices climbed following an unexpected commitment from Saudi Arabia to deepen production cuts in June.

Brent crude futures rose over 2% to a high of $30.36 a barrel, reversing some the previous session’s sharp losses, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures jump up 5%, or $1.2, to $25.35.

Spot gold was a tad higher at $1,700 an ounce, while Italian and Spanish bonds managed to shrug off news that the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock was “reviewing” its overweight position on southern euro zone debt.

The firm cited the recent German constitutional court ruling that the European Central Bank had overstepped its mandate with its 2015 bond purchase programme, which it said risked undermining the ECB’s independence and might limit its bond-buying stimulus.

“This (the ruling) comes as the ECB’s actions to cushion the pandemic’s fallout already looked meek compared with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s,” BlackRock said in a note. It also “threatens to fuel fragmentation within the euro area in the long run,” it added.

Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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