Jittery stock markets inch cautiously higher Friday amid coronavirus volatility

Stock markets around the world took a few tentative steps into the green on Friday, the second positive day in a row after the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 walloped equities for weeks.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s benchmark index was up by about one per cent, or 165 points, in early trading.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 146 points, or less than one per cent.

European markets were as much as 4 per cent higher, and Shanghai, Hong Kong and other Asian markets advanced.

Those gains offer some relief after massive selling sprees in recent weeks. Volatility has been the name of the game of late, as investors panic with each new bleak piece of information about the coronavirus, and then bargain hunters buy in as central banks and governments announce massive spending packages to try to curb the pandemic’s economic impact.

China, where the virus outbreak began, is showing signs of coming out of the crisis, which is good news for countries where the full brunt of the pathogen has yet to hit.

“Investors seem to be thinking that if China is starting to come out the other side the COVID-19 pandemic, there could eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel and perhaps we could finally find a template for how the coronavirus response could play out in other countries or economies,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist with SIA Wealth Management in Toronto.

Historically, the stock market moves by just under one per cent, on average, every day, according to data compiled by S&P Global.

Looking at 7,500 trading days dating back to 1990, five of the eight most volatile days on the stock market have come in the past three weeks, the firm said Friday.

“Only the peaks in volatility that occurred during the 2008 financial crisis saw anything similar,” said Tim Edwards, managing director of index investment strategy at S&P Global.

After falling to its lowest level since 2003 this week, the Canadian dollar rebounded a little to get back above the 70-cent US level. The loonie rallied along with the price of oil, which plummeted earlier in the week.

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