Stocks mixed on US riots, virus lockdown easing

Men wearing masks walk past an electronic stock board showing foreign currency exchange rates at a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday, May 28, 2020. (AP Photo)

Global stock markets were mixed Monday, with US investors keeping a wary eye on violent anti-racism protests across the country and simmering tensions with China over Hong Kong.

In Asia and then Europe, the focus was on the progressive easing of coronavirus lockdowns, offering hope for some return to a semblance of normality.

In New York, the Down opened down 0.5 percent with the tech-heavy NASDAQ slipping 0.3 percent.

In European mid-afternoon trade, London was up 0.7 percent, Madrid gained 1.2 percent, Milan rose 1.1 percent and Paris added 1.0 percent, while Frankfurt was shut for a holiday.

The euro was stronger against the dollar, extending gains as the lockdown easing gathered pace across the continent, hitting a two-month high at $1.1154 at one stage.

Beijing warned Washington on Monday of retaliation, after US President Donald Trump announced restrictions on Chinese students in the United States in protest against a new national security law in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong spearheaded an Asia rally after Trump fell short of imposing specific strict measures against China, with investors taking that to mean the US prefers to avoid a confrontation at this point.

Violent anti-racism protests across the US meanwhile fuelled worries of a pick-up in virus infections where some states are making progress and others still seeing an increase in cases.

On Sunday night, police fired tear gas to try to disperse protesters outside the White House and scenes of violence were repeated in many major US cities.

'Investors ignoring risks'

"Investors are continuing to largely ignore the escalating US-China tensions, the global recession and ongoing riots in the US, among other risks," said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at trading site ThinkMarkets.

"Sentiment remains supported due to the easing of lockdown measures and because of ongoing central bank support."

The COVID-19 outbreak is widely expected to push the world economy into deep recession this year despite vast stimulus from governments and central banks.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank is tipped to unveil hundreds of billions in new bond-buying to get the region through the pandemic crisis, just as EU leaders try to hammer out a joint response.

"After surging over the past two weeks, some might wonder where the next big driver for upside in Europe will come from," noted IG analyst Chris Beauchamp.

"But with an ECB meeting looming there is the potential for another boost to the central bank's easing programme, in tandem with the push at government level for a pan-eurozone recovery fund."

Dealers had sold stocks Friday ahead of a news conference Trump called regarding China's planned security law for Hong Kong, but his actions were not as severe as feared.

The president said he would strip several of the city's special privileges and bar some Chinese students from US universities.

He also ordered probes into Chinese companies listed on US financial markets.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped more than three percent, having spiralled last month after China proposed the new law which some fear could lead to the end of the city as a key financial hub.

Key figures around 1330 GMT

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 6,120.77 points

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.0 percent at 4,742.77

Milan - FTSE MIB: UP 1.2 percent at 18,408.37

Madrid - IBEX 35: UP 1.2 percent at 7,183.30

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.65 percent at 11,586.85 (Friday close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 22,062.39 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 3.4 percent at 23,732.52 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 2.2 percent at 2,915.43 (close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 25,245.30

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.0 percent at $37.44 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 2.8 percent at $34.49 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.116 from $1.110 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.71 yen from 107.83

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2410 from $1.2343

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.58 pence from 89.94 pence

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