July 15, 2020 / 7:05 PM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks rally on vaccine hopes, crude oil gains

(Adds oil, gold settlement prices)

* COVID vaccine hopes drive risk-on sentiment

* Economic, crude oil data help growth outlook

* Simmering U.S.-Sino tensions remain a concern

By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - World shares strode to four-month highs on Wednesday as hopes for a coronavirus vaccine offset rising U.S.-China tensions and helped lift the euro and oil prices.

Asian markets were choppy after more barbs between Beijing and Washington over Hong Kong, but gains of almost 2% in European bourses and Wall Street’s advance pushed aside concerns about the still growing number of COVID cases.

An experimental vaccine produced by biotech start-up Moderna Inc drew safe immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers, an early stage trial showed on Tuesday. There were reports on Wednesday that a separate University of Oxford trial also looked good.

U.S. Treasury yields rose and the yield curve steepened, indicating a wider spread between long- and short-term interest rates, as hopes for a vaccine boosted risk appetite and upbeat economic data released on Wednesday added to the optimism.

“The market is trading fairly ‘risk on’ on vaccine hopes,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities in New York. “It’s largely COVID news driving the price action recently.”

U.S. industrial production, manufacturing output and plant capacity rose more than expected in June and there was a bigger- than-expected draw in U.S. crude and refined products last week as demand edges up.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 1.65%, as growth-sensitive sectors such as travel & leisure, miners and industrial companies led gains.

Moderna surged 9% to a record high after its experimental vaccine produced high levels of virus-killing antibodies, bolstering hopes it could prove effective in later stages of testing.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7%, the S&P 500 gained 0.86% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.61%.

Stocks that have benefited from widespread lockdowns, including Amazon and Zoom Video Communications, slid and limited Nasdaq’s gains. Amazon was poised for a third consecutive session of losses.

Hopes of progress this week towards a deal on the European Union’s 750 billion-euro COVID recovery fund helped sentiment in Europe. The euro traded above $1.1430 for the first time since March, and Italy and Spain’s bond market borrowing costs came down again.

The European Central Bank started a two-day meeting, though no major announcement is expected when it concludes on Thursday.

The euro was last up 0.09% at $1.1406.

Chinese shares fell 1.3% and Hong Kong ended flat, after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to punish China for its “oppressive actions” against the former British colony.

That prompted a retaliatory warning from China’s foreign ministry that “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to interfere.”

Japan’s Nikkei and Australia’s benchmark index remained upbeat, finishing up 1.6% and 1.9%, respectively.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs was also pointing higher after reporting higher quarterly profits following the COVID crisis trading boom. JPMorgan, Citi and Wells Fargo had reported huge Q2 profit drops on Tuesday and set aside a collective $28 billion for loan losses.

RED ALERT

The dollar was on the defensive, particularly against risk-sensitive currencies, following the news of progress in vaccine development.

Sweden’s crown vaulted to its highest versus the greenback since February 2019 and the risk-sensitive Australian dollar popped to a one-month high at $0.70.

The yen was down 0.26% at $106.9500.

The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy steady, as expected, on Wednesday though it warned that uncertainty over the economic outlook was “extremely high” due to various risks, including rising coronavirus infections in Tokyo, which was put on “red alert” on Wednesday.

Oil rose on the sharp drop in U.S. inventories, but further gains were limited as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies are set to ease supply curbs from August as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.

Brent crude settled up 89 cents at $43.79 a barrel, while U.S. crude rose 91 cents to settle at $41.20 a barrel.

Gold prices held above $1,800 an ounce as the surge in coronavirus cases and renewed U.S.-China tensions bolstered safe-haven demand, but the rally in stocks capped the advance.

U.S. gold futures added 40 cents to settle at$1,813.80. Spot gold rose 0.19% to $1,810.89.

Reporting by Marc Jones and Herbert Lash, additional reporting by Karen Brettell in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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