Asia Pacific markets jump as much as 49% from March lows

A man looks at an electronic quotation board displaying stock prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on May 26, 2020.

KAZUHIRO NOGI | AFP via Getty Images

Major markets in Asia Pacific have bounced back strongly following a historic period of volatility and uncertainty in March, as the world grappled with a rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic that left many economies on pause as lockdown measures were put in place.

In fact, some regional indexes — such as South Korea’s Kospi — surged as much as 49.45% as of Thursday’s market close, according to calculations done by CNBC with data from Refinitiv.

Here’s a look at how other major stock indexes regionally have performed since touching their 52-week low in March, as of their Thursday closing figures:

Stocks elsewhere in the world also saw major gains, with the S&P 500 stateside up 42% from its 52-week lows in March, while the pan-European Stoxx 600 surged 36.37%, based on calculations by CNBC with data from Refinitiv Eikon as of Thursday’s closing numbers.

Global markets made a strong comeback from their plunge a few months ago, as central banks and governments around the world pumped money into the economy through massive stimulus packages.

It is premature to argue that the crisis is over, and that the world is heading into a V-shaped recovery.

Luca Paolini

chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management

On Thursday, the European Central Bank announced plans to boost its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme by 600 billion euros.

Earlier this week, South Korea unveiled a 35.3 trillion won ($29 billion) supplementary budget, raising the total stimulus to 270 trillion won as it continues to battle the economic hit from the coronavirus, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has also made unprecedented moves in an effort to prevent the American economy from collapsing.

Still, Asia Pacific’s major markets have some way to go to recapture their 52-week highs. Some, such as the Straits Times index in Singapore, are still around 20% lower than that figure. Even South Korea’s Kospi, with its nearly 50% gains in the last few months, is still 5.54% lower than its 52-week high in January.

Potential headwinds ahead

However, there could still be headwinds ahead, according to analysts.

“As lockdowns are lifted and economies start to revive almost everywhere, it would be easy to assume risk assets were vindicated in rallying sharply since their late-March lows,” Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management, wrote in a note assessing the financial markets’ June investment outlook.

“It is premature to argue that the crisis is over, and that the world is heading into a V-shaped recovery,” Paolini warned. “Markets are pricing in a permanent decline in the cost of capital rather than focusing on income and earnings, which is boosting valuations.”

There’s a growing list of bad news, both on the political and economic front, that I find impossible to ignore… Yet, that doesn’t seem to be having any impact.

Rob Carnell

Chief Economist and Head of Research for Asia-Pacific, ING

Meanwhile, ING’s Rob Carnell told CNBC he was “surprised that the investment backdrop is as benign as it appears to be right now.”

 “There’s a growing list of bad news, both on the political and economic front, that I find impossible to ignore,” said Carnell, who is chief economist and head of research for Asia-Pacific at ING. “Yet, that doesn’t seem to be having any impact.”

In particular, Carnell said recent policy decisions may have made the investment community “so relaxed about everything” that they’re now ready to to discount bad news, from civil unrest in the U.S. to brewing trade tensions.

“Personally, I think that’s extremely naive,” he said.

Still, the ING economist admitted that he “wouldn’t fight” the current market which “just seems to want to go up.”

“There’s simply no point in putting a short in,” Carnell said.

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