For Virus-Minded Investors, Oil Deal Offers a Ray of Hope

MANHATTAN (CN) — Investors looking to latch onto any bright spot in the darkening economy seemed laser-focused on oil prices.

U.S. markets rose Monday morning on rumors of an upcoming meeting between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which have been engaged in a costly oil price war. 

Stock futures indicated a big opening, and after the morning bell markets immediately jumped about 4%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained almost 900 points as early trading opened, signaling further gains later in the day.

Last week, investors largely ignored another spike in unemployment to rally around the pending truce between Russia and Saudi Arabia in their oil price war.

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Armco and stock market officials celebrate during the official ceremony marking the 2019 debut of Aramco’s initial public offering on the Riyadh’s stock market. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

Oil prices, which earlier were at some of their lowest points ever, skyrocketed to $24 a barrel on Thursday, rising again Friday on news that Saudi Arabia had called a meeting with other oil-producing nations.

President Trump had touted the meeting via Twitter, calling an agreement between the two countries to cut back production as “good (GREAT) news for everyone!”

The planned meeting seemingly fell apart over the weekend with renewed tensions between the energy powerhouses, but a deal may still be imminent.  

“Russia is committed,” the CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said in an interview on CNBC.

“I think the whole market understands that this deal is important, and it will bring lots of stability — so much important stability to the market — and we are very close,” said Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev.

The postponed meeting may end up being held on Thursday, according to several media reports.

Barrels of crude sat at about $27 per barrel Monday morning. Oil demand is still extremely low due to social-distancing guidelines in the United States and around the globe aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.  

Carefully watching for news of a Russia-Saudi Arabia deal, Asia closed on a mini-rally, with markets in Japan, Australia and South Korea all gaining about 4%. Hong Kong’s market increased more than 2% by close.

Europe also had a strong day, with most countries’ markets posting positive gains by 8:30 a.m. E.S.T. Germany’s DAX lead the pack with a 4.4% increase, while the pan-European Stoxx 600 approached a 3% increase.

Some investors also have been heartened by news out of New York state, which saw its first drop in coronavirus-related deaths over the weekend. 

“I am beginning to get optimistic,” Pershing Square CEO Bill Ackman tweeted on Sunday. “Cases appear to be peaking in NY. Almost the entire country is in shutdown. 

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