April 30, 2020 / 4:22 PM / a month ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Equities dip but remain on pace for best month on record

(Updates through midday U.S. trading)

By David Randall

NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - World equity benchmarks dipped on Thursday yet remained on pace for their best month on record as a rebound in oil prices, encouraging early results from a COVID-19 treatment trial and expectations of more government stimulus helped ease the pain of February and March.

Safe-haven assets including the dollar and government bonds rose, reflecting an unsettled market as concerns about containing the coronavirus pandemic and jobs data in the United States were worse than expected.

"It's a hope-based rally rather than an evidence-based rally," said Anthony Doyle, cross-asset specialist at fund manager Fidelity International in Sydney.

There were still worries about a second wave of infections, Doyle said, adding that huge piles of cash waiting to go back into the markets suggest investors remained nervous.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.79% following broad losses in Europe and gains in Asia that pushed Japan's Nikkei to a seven-week high.

The index is on pace for its best month since it launched in the late 1980s..

In midday trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 326.94 points, or 1.33%, to 24,306.92, the S&P 500 lost 32.44 points, or 1.10%, to 2,907.07 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 38.93 points, or 0.44%, to 8,875.78.

"We have gone back to a turbo-charged version of the great financial crisis," said Simon Fennell, a portfolio manager in William Blair's global equity team, referring to how markets have surged on mass central bank and government stimulus.

Declines in the equity market came on the heels of a strong finish on Wall Street Wednesday after partial results from a trial of Gilead's antiviral drug remdesivir suggested it could help speed recovery from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Partial results from the 1,063-patient U.S. government trial of Gilead's remdesivir were hailed as "highly significant" by the top U.S. infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci.

But since treatment hopes do not seem to take into account regulatory and distribution difficulties, should a treatment be found, currency and bond markets were more circumspect.

"Any positive medical development is helpful," said Westpac FX analyst Sean Callow. "But no one should be counting on a major breakthrough. The key for markets is control of the spread of the virus."

A rise in U.S. unemployment claims helped bolster safe haven assets. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 12/32 in price to yield 0.5904%, from 0.627% late on Wednesday.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 3.839 million for the week ended April 25, the U.S. government said. That was down from 4.442 million in the prior week.

Commodities were also set to close the month significantly higher. Gold is set for its best month in four years and copper, which is seen as a something of a bellwether of global industry, was on track for its best performance since December 2017.

Hope that demand could soon return helped push oil prices broadly higher. U.S. crude rose 19.92% to $18.06 per barrel and Brent was at $25.41, up 12.73% on the day

Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Will Dunham and Nick Zieminski

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