April 29, 2020 / 2:45 PM / 3 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares gain after encouraging COVID-19 drug data, oil jumps

* MSCI global stock index up nearly 2%

* Gilead: remdesivir trials show improvement for COVID-19 patients

* Wall Street rises; Alphabet, Boeing gain after results

* Oil jumps after smaller than feared U.S. inventories build

* Fed policy statement due at 2 pm EDT/1800 GMT (Updates with open of U.S markets, changes dateline, previous London)

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK, April 29 (Reuters) - A gauge of global stocks climbed on Wednesday following encouraging news for an experimental COVID-19 treatment and some positive earnings reports, while beaten-up oil prices surged.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 1.86%. Major U.S. averages rose about 2% in early trading, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.40%.

Gilead Sciences Inc said its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir helped improve outcomes for patients with COVID-19, and provided data suggesting it worked better when given earlier in the course of infection.

The development of treatments for the virus has been seen by strategists as critical for markets as they could help countries emerge from self-imposed lockdowns to quell the outbreak that have crippled economies.

Data on Wednesday showed the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the Great Recession, falling at a 4.8% annualized rate.

"What matters to the market is forward-looking information like when we're going to get a cure or a vaccine," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer with Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Any news on treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19 is going to outweigh backward-looking economic numbers."

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 444.37 points, or 1.84%, to 24,545.92, the S&P 500 gained 61.54 points, or 2.15%, to 2,924.93 and the Nasdaq Composite added 245.85 points, or 2.86%, to 8,853.58.

As the heart of first-quarter corporate results season arrives, Google parent Alphabet's shares jumped 9.2% after the company said a drop in Google ad sales steadied in April. Boeing shares rose 4.2% after the planemaker's report.

In Europe, shares of automakers were lifted after German carmaker Daimler forecast operating profit at its Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans division above the prior-year level and rival Volkswagen said it expected to be profitable on a full-year basis.

Investors across the world are growing confident the pandemic may be peaking as parts of the United States, Europe and Australia gradually ease restrictions. New Zealand this week allowed some businesses to reopen.

Oil prices jumped after U.S. stockpiles rose less than expected and gasoline stocks fell, with support also coming from hopes that demand will improve as some European countries and U.S. cities moved to ease the coronavirus lockdowns.

U.S. crude recently rose 26.42% to $15.60 per barrel and Brent was at $22.89, up 11.88% on the day.

In currencies, the dollar index fell 0.089%, with the euro up 0.24% to $1.0844.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 6/32 in price to yield 0.5922%, down from 0.61% late on Tuesday.

Markets were also focused on the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, with the central bank's policy statement due at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).

Additional reporting by Sinéad Carew and Karen Brettell in New York, Tom Wilson in London; Editing by Alex Richardson and Jonathan Oatis

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