Some parts of the world are slowly getting back to normal, with South Korean students returning to school, but there are worries about the long-term impact of the pandemic on economies

New York (AFP) - Stock markets picked up Wednesday, with US tech giants surging as investor optimism over the reopening of the economy offset worries about the hit from coronavirus shutdowns.

Equities have enjoyed a broad advance for several weeks as virus infection and death rates slow overall, allowing some governments to lift strict stay-at-home measures that have hammered businesses.

But while there was a general feeling the worst is past, increased China-US tensions continue to cast a shadow over trading floors, along with an accumulating mountain of indicators of profound economic weakness.

The World Bank warned the crisis could leave about 60 million people in extreme poverty, and estimated that the global economy might contract by five percent this year.

Federal Reserve minutes showed worries about the lasting damage from COVID-19 on businesses.

Policymakers worried that “even after social-distancing requirements were eased, some business models may no longer be economically viable,” especially if consumers decide to “avoid participating in particular forms of economic activity,” the minutes said.

Still, investors have shrugged off much of the bad news.

“If recent price action is any guide, stock markets will continue to opt for the positive narratives, even as investors wait for this summer’s dire earnings season, expected to be one of the worst on record,” said IG chief market analyst Chris Beauchamp.

Markets in Europe were mixed earlier in the day, but perked up when New York weighed in.

The Nasdaq led the major indices, finishing 2.1 percent.

Both Amazon and Facebook surged following new program announcements in the last day that pushed their businesses ahead at a time when many consumers are stuck at home because of the coronavirus.

Facebook rocketed 6.0 percent higher after unveiling tools for retailers hit by the pandemic to create online storefronts at the social network and Instagram, while Amazon advanced 2.0 percent as it released the online game Crucible as a potential rival to monster hit Fortnite.

Meanwhile, US retail giant Target reported an 11.3 jump in first quarter sales to $19.6 billion, but also a 64.3 percent drop in profits owing to higher costs that included bonuses to hourly workers and extra cleaning related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oil prices continued to push higher, as US oil inventories declined in the latest indication that the badly glutted market is rebalancing. US oil futures finished up 4.8 percent at $33.49 per barrel.

- Key figures around 2050 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 1.5 percent at 24,575.90 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 1.7 percent at 2,971.61 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 2.1 percent at 9,375.78 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.1 percent at 6,067.16 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.3 percent at 11,223.71 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.9 percent at 4,496.98 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.4 percent at 2,942.39 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 20,595.15 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 24,399.95 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 2,883.74 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 3.2 percent at $35.75 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 4.8 percent at $33.49 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0983 from $1.0923 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.55 yen from 107.71 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2233 from $1.2253

Euro/pound: UP at 89.74 pence from 89.15 pence