* MSCI global stock index up over 2%
* Gilead: remdesivir trials show improvement for COVID-19 patients
* Wall Street rises; Alphabet, Boeing gain after results
* Oil jumps after U.S. crude inventories rise less than feared
* Fed leaves rates near zero, sees virus risks lingering (Updates with Fed decision, afternoon trading)
By Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, April 29 (Reuters) - World stock markets surged on Wednesday following encouraging news for an experimental COVID-19 treatment and some positive earnings reports, while beaten-up oil prices soared.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 2.47%. Major U.S. averages were up well over 2%, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.75%.
A top U.S. health official said Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir is likely to become the standard of care for COVID-19 after early results from a clinical trial showed it helped certain patients recover more quickly from the illness caused by the coronavirus.
The development of treatments for the virus has been seen by strategists as critical as they could help countries emerge from self-imposed lockdowns aimed at curbing 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.
“While we wait for a vaccine, we are looking out for anything that will help us get back into society, and we’re all hanging on this data on a day-by-day basis,” said Linda Duessel, senior equity strategist at Federated Hermes in Pittsburgh.
The Federal Reserve left interest rates near zero and repeated a vow to do what it takes to shore up the U.S. economy amid an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that will not only “weigh heavily” on the near-term outlook but poses “considerable risks” for the medium term as well.
“The more significant comment is that the FOMC is concerned about the downside risk to the economic outlook over the medium term, suggesting they will remain extraordinarily accommodative in policy for several years to come,” said Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia
Wall Street’s main indexes pared gains slightly after the Fed decision, but were still sharply higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 609.64 points, or 2.53%, to 24,711.19, the S&P 500 gained 83.34 points, or 2.91%, to 2,946.73 and the Nasdaq Composite added 315.80 points, or 3.67%, to 8,923.53.
As the heart of first-quarter corporate results season arrives, Google parent Alphabet’s shares jumped 9.7% after the company said a drop in Google ad sales steadied in April, with shares of other tech titans also rallying. Boeing shares rose 8.7% 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 COVID-19 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 surged after U.S. crude stockpiles grew less than expected and gasoline posted a surprise draw, adding to optimism for an improvement in demand as some European countries and U.S. cities move to ease coronavirus lockdowns.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $15.06 a barrel, jumping $2.72, or 22%. Brent crude futures settled at $22.54 a barrel, up $2.08, or 10.2%.
In currencies, the dollar index, tracking the greenback against six major peers, fell 0.341%, with the euro up 0.55% to $1.0877.
Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes last fell 6/32 in price to yield 0.6285%, down from 0.61% late on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston, C Nivedita and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru, Laila Kearney in New York, Tom Wilson in London; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis