By Chong Koh Ping 

International stocks traded little changed Friday, a day after crude oil surged on hopes that a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia will ease.

By late morning in Hong Kong, stock benchmarks in Australia, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai had risen or fallen less than 0.5%. S&P 500 futures rose 0.8%, suggesting U.S. markets could inch up when they open later in the day.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 0.592%, after settling at 0.624% in the previous session. Bond yields fall as prices rise.

Brent crude, the global gauge of oil prices, retreated 2.8% to $29.10 a barrel. On Thursday it leapt 21%, marking its largest one-day percentage gain on record, based on data going back to 1988.

On Thursday, President Trump said he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia to agree to cut production. Russia later denied talking to the Saudis, but Saudi officials said the kingdom would consider substantial output cuts if other nations joined the effort.

"The oil situation is going to remain quite dicey," said Eddy Loh, senior investment strategist at Maybank Group Wealth Management in Singapore. "While we see some negotiation breakthroughs this week, negotiations can come on and off. Fundamentally there's a shock to global oil demand."

Globally, the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus topped 1 million, with a death toll of more than 53,000. The U.S. reported more than 245,000 infections and nearly 6,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Loh said all eyes were on how long the containment measures rolled out by the U.S. and other countries would last. A record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week--double the number two weeks ago--as the country shut down parts of the economy in an effort to contain the virus.

"The longer the lockdown, the larger the damage. The fear now is the rise of corporate bankruptcies," Mr. Loh said. "We'll be tracking very closely whether the liquidity crisis will become a credit crisis. And the U.S. will be the key driver here."

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.2% and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were up 2.3% and 1.7% respectively.

Despite the apparent calm Friday, Kerry Craig, a global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, said he expected the markets to remain choppy in the near future. "A cycle of corporate [earnings] downgrades has yet to come through," he said, adding that consensus expectations weren't yet fully reflecting the impact of the pandemic.

Write to Chong Koh Ping at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 03, 2020 00:35 ET (04:35 GMT)

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