Markets mostly firmer on US stimulus hopes


Optimism that US lawmakers will eventually pass a new stimulus package lifted most global markets Monday, with the White House ramping up its offer and Donald Trump insisting Republicans want to get a deal done.

Frankfurt and Paris advanced after a strong session in most of Asia, but gains were capped by rising global coronavirus infection numbers.

London flatlined as investors awaited news of fresh coronavirus restrictions for specific areas in England.

"European bourses are heading out of the blocks in a mixed fashion," noted City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

"Rising Covid-19 cases, both in the UK and on the continent, plus Brexit concerns coming to a head, could keep the lid on any upwards movement."

Roller-coaster ride

There was another strong lead before the weekend on Wall Street, with hopes for a fresh injection of cash into the world's top economy overshadowing a surge in virus infections that have forced some governments to reimpose containment measures and targeted lockdowns.

Investors were sent on a roller-coaster ride last week when President Trump first called off talks before doing a volte-face to say they were back on and were progressing well.

On Friday, Trump jacked up his offer, proposing a $1.8 trillion package and saying he favoured an even larger package.

The move has instilled optimism that an agreement can be reached, even though the White House plan is $400 billion short of the one put forward by the Democrats.

With Joe Biden well ahead in opinion polls, analysts say traders are increasingly betting he will win next month's election comfortably - avoiding the uncertainty of a Trump challenge to the result - and Democrats will take both houses of Congress.

Fresh wave of infections

Hong Kong and Shanghai led Asian markets higher, both piling on more than two percent with support also coming from hopes Chinese President Xi Jinping will use a speech in Shenzhen later this week to announce a further opening up of China's economy.

Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Jakarta and Wellington also enjoyed healthy gains but Tokyo ended down.

On the corporate front, shares in airline group IAG sank about one percent in London after the group announced the shock departure of British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz.

Faced with the global travel crisis, IAG stock has plummeted by a staggering 75% since the start of the year - making it the worst performer listed on London's FTSE 100 index.

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