U.S. markets closed

Dow reclaims 20K protecting Trump-era gains

Jonathan Garber

U.S. equity markets battled back from steep losses early Thursday to close with modest gains after losing some steam in the final minutes of trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 189 points, reversing a drop of 721 points, or 3.6 percent, shortly after the open. The S&P 500 also posted modest gains.

Boeing remained a drag, closing down 4 percent on reports the airplane maker is considering cutting its dividend.

The Nasdaq composite turned in a stronger rally, rising over 2 percent as investors gravitated back into big tech. Amazon rose, as did Uber after CEO Dara Khosrowshahi assured investors the ride-sharing company has plenty of cash to get through this downturn.

The VIX Index, a measure of volatility, also came off its highs, a signal of less panic in the marketplace.

Thursday's action comes after Trump signed a second coronavirus measure into law on Wednesday evening, which provides paid sick leave, unemployment help and free coronavirus testing to Americans.

A third stimulus package, which would guarantee low-interest loans for small businesses, give cash payments to most Americans, provide loans to the industries hardest and supply funding for hospitals and medical centers, is being worked on by the Senate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened 10,755 people in the U.S. and killed 154, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

The impact of “shelter in place” orders, social distancing, the cancellation of non-essential travel and the closure of many restaurants and bars has started to show up in economic data.

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The number of weekly jobless claims jumped to 281,000 in the week ended March 14, according to the Department of Labor, exceeding the increase of 220,000 that economists surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting.

Looking at stocks, travel-related names, which have been in the eye of this financial storm, were divided.

Beaten-down energy companies saw some reprieve as West Texas Intermediate crude oil spiked 23.8 percent to the $25 per barrel level. Crude plunged by more than 24 percent on Wednesday, touching a low near $20.

Money poured back into the U.S. Treasury market, flattening the yield curve and pushing the benchmark 10-year yield down 13.8 basis points to 1.121 percent. Still, the bank stocks mostly gained.

In manufacturing, Harley-Davidson suspended production at its U.S. plants while General Motors and Ford said they are looking into the possibility of making medical equipment at their factories.

Tesla shares gained after the electric automaker received upgrades at Bank of America and Morgan Stanley due to its valuation.

Elsewhere, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced the closing of its stores for two weeks amid declining traffic due to COVID-19.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX gained 2 percent and France’s CAC rallied 2.7 percent after the European Central Bank launched a 750 billion-euro ($805 billion) asset purchase plan. Britain’s FTSE added 1.4 percent after the Bank of England cut rates by 50 basis points.

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Asian markets ended lower, with South Korea’s Kospi plunging 8.4 percent after the government said it was preparing for a possible credit crunch. Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 2.6 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite and Japan’s Nikkei both lost 1 percent.

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