By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) - Global equity markets rebounded on Monday on optimism the European Union would approve a recovery fund to help revive regional economies hit by the coronavirus, but worries about the pandemic's economic and human toll pushed gold prices higher.
The euro rose to a 19-week high and Italy's borrowing costs fell to their lowest since early March on expectations for a fund of about 750 billion euros ($857.93 bln).
European shares also rose on recovery fund optimism while encouraging data from three COVID-19 vaccine candidates lifted equities on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Nasdaq reaching a new closing high - the seventh record close this month.
EU leaders appeared to be nearing agreement on the massive stimulus plan despite lingering tensions between them after four days of summit squabbling.
Summit Chairman Charles Michel said he would present the 27 leaders with a new proposal and was confident it could be the basis for a deal many say is critical to dispel doubts about the bloc's very future.
AstraZeneca AZN.L shares rose 1.45% after hitting a record high on news its COVID-19 vaccine was safe and produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials in healthy volunteers, though it was too early to call the drug a success.
"We're finally getting the details on these Phase I, Phase II studies that we kind of all expected to be positive, but it’s all about the Phase III and that's where everything and anything can go wrong," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at currency broker OANDA in New York.
Investors dropped cyclical stocks after a weeklong rally to return to the tech-centric leaders amid spiraling new cases of COVID-19 and investor hopes a vaccine will emerge to halt the pandemic's growing spread.
While New York state recorded only eight deaths on Sunday and the fewest hospitalizations from the coronavirus in four months, the virus has killed 140,000 Americans and infected some 3.7 million, both figures the highest in the world.
MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets .MIWD00000PUS rose 0.85%. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 0.03%, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.84% and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC jumped 2.51%.
In Europe, the broad FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 closed up 0.73%.
The euro EUR= was up 0.16%, at $1.1444, while the yen JPY= gained 0.27%, to $107.2800.
The euro hit its highest against the dollar since March 9, at $1.1467 EUR=EBS after reports of recovery fund progress. FRX/
An attempt to reach a compromise on the recovery fund failed on Sunday. A deal envisaging 400 billion euros in grants - down from a proposed 500 billion euros - was rejected by the north, which said it saw 350 billion euros as the maximum.
Gold prices jumped to their highest since September 2011 and silver hit a more-than-four-year peak as a spike in COVID-19 infections and hopes for increased stimulus measures supported safe-haven demand.
U.S. gold futures GCv1 settled up 0.4% to $1,817.40 an ounce. Spot gold XAU= rose $5.90 to $1,814.80 an ounce.
Oil prices were little changed as coronavirus cases mounted in many countries. But a flurry of announcements about a potential COVID-19 vaccine and ongoing talks over the EU recovery fund curbed losses.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 settled up 14 cents at $43.28 a barrel. U.S. crude futures CLc1 rose 22 cents to settle at $40.81 a barrel.
Earlier in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.26%, reversing early losses.
Chinese markets rose more than 2% after regulators raised the equity investment cap for insurers and encouraged mergers and acquisitions among brokerages and mutual fund houses.
Prices for copper CMCU3, a barometer of economic growth, fell after data showed rising inventories in Chinese warehouses and on concern that climbing coronavirus cases threatened a sustainable global recovery.
Euro, euro zone bond markets during coronavirus crisishttps://tmsnrt.rs/2E1BYm3
Euro jumps to 4-month highhttps://tmsnrt.rs/3fN2M7r
GRAPHIC-World FX rates http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
GRAPHIC-MSCI All Country World Index Market Caphttp://tmsnrt.rs/2EmTD6j
GRAPHIC-Global assets in 2020http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl
(Reporting by Herb Lash and Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Swati Pandey and Sumeet Chatterjee in Sydney; editing by Dan Grebler, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.