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GLOBAL MARKETS-Plunge in U.S. oil prices sinks equities; bonds yields edge lower

Logo - The Daily Drill - Digging Deep for precious metal news

(Updates through midday U.S. trading)

By David Randall

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - Plunging U.S. crude oil prices pulled global equity markets lower on Monday, kicking off a busy week of data and earnings that will further reveal the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic.

With some global storage facilities nearly at capacity, the "front-month" May benchmark U.S. crude contract fell 40.56% to $10.86 per barrel - the lowest since 1998. Brent was at $26.05, down 7.23% on the day.

"For oil there is a bit of a technical story (with storage), but still, if energy consumption is down 30% and OPEC reduces supply by 10%, there is still a large gap," said Elwin de Groot, Rabobank's head of macro strategy.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.25%, following broad declines in Asia and slight gains in Europe driven by the healthcare sector.

In midday trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 206.99 points, or 0.85%, to 24,035.5, the S&P 500 lost 12.43 points, or 0.43%, to 2,862.13 and the Nasdaq Composite added 21.30 points, or 0.25%, to 8,671.44

The S&P 500 has rallied 30% from its March low, thanks in part to the extreme easing steps taken by the Federal Reserve and a $2.3 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress.

Yet analysts are likely underestimating the impact of the global economic lockdown on earnings results, noted Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at Credit Suisse Securities.

The United States has by far the world's largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 750,000 infections and over 40,500 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar index fell 0.046%, with the euro down 0.02% at $1.0874..

Bond markets suggested investors expect tough economic times ahead. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 7/32 in price to yield 0.6336%, from 0.656% late on Friday, compared with 1.91% at the start of the year.

"We are dealing with scales of declining economic activity that nobody has seen before. The potential hit to GDP in the second quarter this year will probably far exceed what we saw at the worst point of the financial crisis," Capital Group economist Robert Lind said in a note.

Selling pressure on Italian government bonds has returned in the past week, undoing some of the benefits of the European Central Bank's massive bond-buying scheme, after euro zone politicians failed to agree to common debt issuance as a means of addressing the crisis.

Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte used an interview with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday to repeat calls for the EU to issue common euro zone bonds to demonstrate the bloc's solidarity.

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)

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