Global stocks rise after US jobless claims tumbled to their lowest since the pandemic began, while Europe eyes a slow vaccine rollout

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  • Global stocks rose after US jobs data the previous day fed into optimism about economic recovery.
  • President Joe Biden doubled his vaccine goal to 200 million vaccine shots by the end of April.
  • Efforts to dislodge the ship stuck in the crucial Suez Canal is expected to take until next Wednesday.
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Global stocks edged higher on Friday, after data the previous day showed US weekly jobless claims fell to their lowest level since the pandemic began, offering evidence of the resilience of the economic recovery.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits for the week through March 20 fell to 684,000, lower than the 730,000 expected, according to the Labor Department. Bank of America lifted its 2021 US growth forecast to 7%, up from a prior estimate of 6.5%, on expectations that past and future stimulus will accelerate the pace of recovery.

Futures on the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and Nasdaq rose 0.4%, suggesting a higher open for US indices at the start of trading later in the day.

Adding to the optimism, Joe Biden announced at his first news conference as President that his administration was raising its goal of 100 million vaccine shots to 200 million by the end of April.

“Supply is expected to pick up in the coming weeks as manufacturers increase shipments, particularly Johnson & Johnson which only received authorization more recently,” Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid said.

Another major highlight of the conference was Biden saying he would run for office again with Vice President Kamala Harris in 2024. “That saw the US dollar power higher once again, and I expect trading in currency, bond and equity markets to be very choppy and noisy over the coming days as the end of the quarter approaches,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said.

In Europe, Italy’s newly elected Prime Minister Mario Draghi pressed other EU leaders to make use of the bloc’s new rules to ensure adequate vaccine supply. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen challenged the UK by casting doubt over “transparency” of its vaccine exports, saying she had not seen evidence that British-manufactured vaccines are being exported, although ones made in the EU are going to Britain.

The discord did not deter European investors. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.7%, the Euro Stoxx 50 was up 0.7%, and Germany’s DAX gained 0.9%.

In Asia, investors focused more on economic recovery rather than Biden’s comments that he would outspend China and would help the US retain its position as the world’s topmost superpower.

China’s Shanghai Composite rose 1.6%, Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.3%.

Efforts to refloat the 200,000-ton container vessel stuck at the Suez Canal are expected to take until Wednesday next week, according to Bloomberg. At first, the task was expected to last only a few days. Oil prices recovered after falling around 4% on Thursday. Brent Crude gained 2.3% to $63.39 and West Texas Intermediate rose 2.6% to $60.07. The Suez Canal is a key shipping route and roughly 4% of the world’s crude passes through there each day.