Asian shares poised to follow Wall Street's rocky lead

(Reuters) – Asian stock futures were under pressure on Wednesday after a late, sharp sell-off on Wall Street and as oil prices slumped under pressure from swelling global supplies.

Hong Kong futures HSIc1 were down following two days of gains. Australian shares were expected to open lower as warnings of an economic slump and a spike in unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic dampened sentiment.

Nikkei futures NKc1 were down 0.37% at 2319 GMT. The Nikkei 225 index .N225 closed up 4.24% at 18,576.3​ on Tuesday as the Japanese government promised a near-$1 trillion stimulus package – equal to a fifth of its gross domestic product – to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 .SPX lost 4.27 points, or 0.16%, to 2,659.41, closing near its session lows and giving up an earlier gain of as much as 3.5% on Tuesday. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 25.98 points, or 0.33%, to 7,887.26 and Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 26.13 points, or 0.12%, to 22,653.86.

After U.S. stock markets closed, President Donald Trump said the United States may be getting to the top of the coronavirus curve.

The Trump administration asked Congress for an additional $250 billion in emergency economic aid for small U.S. businesses reeling from the pandemic.

New York state, the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19, is nearing a plateau in the number of patients hospitalized, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, a hopeful sign even as deaths in his state and neighboring New Jersey hit single-day highs.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 1.3 million people and killed over 76,000 globally, the latest figures compiled by Reuters show. Though the numbers are still rising in many highly populated countries, tentative improvements have given hope.

“While the virus’ ‘curve is flattening’, the economic effects of the corona crisis will linger for years in our view,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia economist Joseph Capurso said in a morning note.

“Economies will take time to re‑open, some businesses will not re‑open, and unemployment will take years to return to levels reported at the end of 2019.”

Oil prices LCOc1 also gave up early gains to fall sharply as weekly data showed a crude glut grew more than expected. Hopes the world’s biggest producers would agree to cut output were overtaken by anxiety that a deal would not emerge.

Gold prices XAU= retreated after touching a 3-1/2-week high, in response to a stabilization in Asian and European equities trade.

Demand for gold, seen as a store of value, has jumped in recent weeks as governments around the world roll out stimulus packages that effectively dilute their currencies.

Debt trading conditions remain challenging but some measures of liquidity in the $17 trillion U.S. Treasury market are almost back to normal, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s giant purchases.

Without the Fed’s intervention, analysts have been concerned that liquidity would rupture and market volatility would spike again. The Fed has bought more than $1 trillion in Treasuries over the last three weeks, helping calm markets.

Graphic: Asian stock markets here

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