* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4
* Investors are looking for signs of a slowing pandemic
* Oil company before OPEC + meeting
* Sterling resilient after PM Johnson’s hospitalization
By Stanley White and Chris Prentice
TOKYO / WASHINGTON, April 9 (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Thursday hoping that the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its peak and that governments will deploy more stimulus measures to support their economies, while expectations of an agreement to reduce oil production are boosted crude prices.
The largest MSCI Asia Pacific index outside Japan rose 0.9% after a strong close on Wall Street. US equity futures were flat after rebounding in positive territory.
Equities in China, where the new coronavirus first appeared at the end of last year, rose 0.42%. Australian stocks rose 2.54%.
Improved mood extends to Europe, where futures on the Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.85%, German DAX futures rose 1.04%, and futures on FTSE gained 1.08%.
Oil prices have extended their gains in hopes that major producers will cut production at a meeting later today in response to the collapse in global demand for oil.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state’s social distancing efforts were helping to contain the virus in one of the biggest hotspots in the United States.
US President Donald Trump has said he would like to reopen the US economy with a “big bang”, but that the death toll from the coronavirus must first decrease.
“There are signs that infections are peaking, which is leading to a change in market sentiment,” said Masayuki Kichikawa, chief macro strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co in Tokyo.
“We still have to be very careful, because it is not just an economic problem. It is more like a natural disaster and therefore more difficult to predict. ”
The S&P 500 gained 3.41% on Wednesday, helped by hopes that the pandemic is nearing its peak.
The Trump administration has asked lawmakers for $ 250 billion in additional aid for small businesses in the United States.
However, congressional efforts were stalled as Democrats resisted similar amounts of aid to hospitals and local governments.
While Trump’s optimism helped fuel the Wall Street rally, recent U.S. data and forecasts are just beginning to reflect the economic damage.
McDonald’s Corp said global comparable sales fell 22.2% in March, while Starbucks Corp. forecast second-quarter profits to drop 47%.
The Nikkei stock index in Japan reversed the regional trend and fell 0.46% due to the increase in coronavirus infections in the country, while markets were also restless after the government declared the state of emergency for Tokyo and other urban areas.
The coronavirus has spread rapidly around the world in the past month or so, infecting more than 1.4 million people and causing more than 87,500 deaths, according to Reuters reports.
Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new virus emerged at the end of last year, ended its lockdown on Wednesday for more than two months, but many officials around the world remain nervous about the rate of infections and death.
The euro nurtured losses against the dollar and the pound after eurozone finance ministers did not agree on Wednesday on increased support for their coronavirus-affected economies.
The pandemic continues to infect and kill large numbers of people across Europe, and there is still no sign that the region’s epidemic has peaked, the European disease surveillance agency said.
The pound kept its gains against the dollar. Confidence has been strengthened. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s situation is improving and he is able to sit in bed and chat with clinical staff.
Johnson, who had been battling COVID-19 symptoms since late March, was taken to intensive care two days ago after his condition deteriorated.
Crude oil rose 3.07% to $ 25.86 a barrel. Brent crude oil rose 1.98% to $ 33.49 a barrel.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia – a group known as OPEC + – are scheduled to hold a meeting by video conference on Thursday.
Hope for a deal to cut between 10 million and 15 million barrels a day (b / d) has risen after media suggested Russia was ready to cut output by 1.6 million b / d .
Report by Chris Prentice in Washington, Herbert Lash in New
York and Stanley White in Tokyo; Editing by Sam Holmes & Shri