Japan stocks jump more than 2% on hopes of coronavirus treatment; China’s manufacturing data misses expectations – CNBC

Stocks in Asia rose in Thursday morning trade following positive developments overnight on a potential new treatment for Covid-19.

Stocks in Japan, which returned to trade following a Wednesday holiday, led gains regionally. The Nikkei 225 jumped 2.49% as shares of robot maker Fanuc soared about 6%. The Topix index also rose 1.65%.

Mainland Chinese stocks rose in early trade, with the Shanghai composite up about 0.8% while the Shenzhen composite added 0.847%.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia also rose 1.31%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.62% higher.

Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea are closed on Thursday for a holiday.

Investors watched for market reaction to developments overnight regarding the use of Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir as a potential new treatment for Covid-19 patients. 

Gilead Sciences said Wednesday preliminary results of a coronavirus drug trial showed at least 50% of patients treated with a five-day dosage of remdesivir improved and more than half were discharged from the hospital within two weeks.

Later Wednesday, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said NIAID’s remdesivir drug trial, which enrolled about 800 patients, showed “quite good news” and that the drug would set a new standard of care for Covid-19 patients.

Globally, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more then 3.1 million and taken at least 226,771 lives, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

On the economic data front, China said manufacturing activity in the country expanded slightly in April. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for April came in at 50.8, as compared to 52.0 in March. PMI readings above 50 signify expansion, while those below that mark indicate contraction. Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected the official manufacturing PMI for April to come in at 51.0.

Economic data from China have been watched by investors for further clues as to whether the country’s economy is bouncing back after a dismal first quarter GDP print as the country battled the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged Wednesday to keep rates near zero for as long as needed and provide additional help to the economy.

In corporate earnings, Singapore’s DBS Group posted a 29% plunge year-over-year in its first quarter net profit. The bank’s shares jumped more than 3% in the morning.

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 532.31 points to close at 24,633.86 while the S&P 500 ended its trading day 2.7% higher at 2,939.51. The Nasdaq Composite closed 3.6% higher at 8,914.71.

Oil prices were higher in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures gaining 3.9% to $23.42 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also added 7.3% to $16.16 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.651 after seeing levels above 100 earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 106.74 per dollar, stronger than levels above 107 seen earlier in the trading week. The Australian dollar was at $0.6542 following its rise from levels below $0.648 seen earlier this week.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.

Correction: This report was updated to reflect that South Korea’s markets were closed on Thursday.

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