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Markets resilient as US jobless figures soar

Markets resilient as US jobless figures soar

Global markets have been resilient to the news a record 3.3m Americans have filed for jobless claims over the past week as the coronavirus crisis continues to dampen economies.

The US unemployment figures, published by the Labour Department today, are four times higher than the previous record of 695,000 back in 1982.

It comes as states across the country closed restaurants, bars and cinemas as well as hotels and gyms.

Some states, such as California, are in a lockdown situation similar to the UK.

But markets have been resilient to the news. The S&P 500 — which tracks the stocks of 500 large-cap US companies — has jumped 3.4 per cent since it opened this afternoon (March 26) while the Nasdaq index, which focuses on technology stocks, is up 7 per cent.

European markets have also risen since the announcement. was made, with the FTSE 100 up 2.5 per cent since midday and the Euro Stoxx 50 rising 2.7 per cent over the same timescale.

Adrian Lowcock, head of personal investing at Willis Owen, said: “Usually such numbers would spook markets, however, they come in below some expectations of up to 4m. 

“Economic news is going to be terrible for the next quarter and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.”

The markets are also reacting in a week of massive stimulus from the world’s governments and central banks.

Yesterday the US Senate unanimously backed a historic $2trn (£1.66trn) coronavirus bill intended to help unemployed workers and some industries hit by the pandemic, while the UK chancellor is today expected to announce some relief for self-employed workers.

In Bank of England minutes from today’s meeting, the central bank said it would expand asset purchases further if needed.

Richard Carter, head of fixed interest research at Quilter Cheviot, said: “The massive spike in US weekly jobless claims to 3.2m was the clearest evidence yet of the economic damage being done by the coronavirus.

“Central banks and governments have put the economy onto life support for the next few weeks but markets will be anxious to see virus numbers peak soon in order to avoid significant longer-term damage.”

imogen.tew@ft.com

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