Stocks surge higher after unemployment claims post record surge

U.S. equity markets clambered higher Thursday as investors digested record jobless claims and waited for the House to vote on a $2 trillion relief package.

First-time unemployment filings surged to a record 3.28 million last week, according to the Labor Department, as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted businesses to temporarily close their doors and lay off employees. The previous record was 695,000, set in 1982.

The all-time high in claims came hours after the Senate voted 96-0, passing the $2 trillion relief package that would extend aid to individuals, small businesses and corporations hit hardest by the pandemic. The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate the bill on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained as many as 1,171 points, or 5.5 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite climbed as much as 4.7 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. An increase at the close of trading of 1,109.77 points or more would lift the Dow out of bear-market territory.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 22026.25 +825.70 +3.89%
SP500 S&P 500 2591.57 +116.01 +4.69%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 7679.607158 +295.31 +4.00%

Looking at stocks, hard-hit travel-related names are seeking direction as the status of the $2 trillion relief package remains in limbo.

Boeing shares continued to gain, adding to their 67 percent climb this week.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BA BOEING COMPANY 180.58 +21.85 +13.77%

Oil majors Exxon Mobil and Chevron were weaker as West Texas Intermediate crude oil plunged 3 percent to $23.76 a barrel. U.S. shale names Continental Resources and Pioneer Natural Resources also fell.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
CVX CHEVRON CORP. 74.61 +5.33 +7.70%

Banks gained even as buying across the Treasury complex flattened the yield curve. The yield on the 10-year note was down 5.8 basis points at 0.798 percent while the yield on the 3-month bill, which fell below zero on Wednesday, was little changed at -0.048 percent.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
JPM JP MORGAN CHASE & CO. 96.90 +5.17 +5.64%
BAC BANK OF AMERICA CORP. 22.43 +1.33 +6.30%
C CITIGROUP INC. 45.12 +3.25 +7.78%
WFC WELLS FARGO & COMPANY 31.25 +2.29 +7.89%

Automaker Ford said it’s aiming to restart production at some North American plants as early as April 6. The company’s credit rating was cut to junk at S&P.

On the earnings front, Micron Technology’s results topped expectations and the firm gave a stronger-than-expected forecast due to an anticipated boost from more people working from home.

Signet Jewelers reported better-than-expected quarterly results, but suspended its dividend and did not provide financial guidance due to uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
F FORD MOTOR COMPANY 5.25 -0.14 -2.50%
MU MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC. 44.48 +1.98 +4.66%
SIG SIGNET JEWELERS LTD 9.59 +2.26 +30.83%

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE paced gains, up 0.6 percent, while France’s CAC and Germany’s DAX rose 0.5 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively.

Asian markets closed lower across the board, with Japan’s Nikkei falling 4.5 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sliding 0.7 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite down 0.6 percent.

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