Stocks surge on signs coronavirus spread is easing; earnings season kicks off

Stocks rallied on some signs the coronavirus outbreak is either leveling off or easing, with traders assessing the first reports of the cloudy corporate earnings season.

The S&P 500 jumped to a one-month high while giant technology companies pushed the Nasdaq 100 through its 50, 100 and 200-day moving averages. Johnson & Johnson surged after posting stronger sales and boosting its quarterly dividend. Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. slumped as their profits were hit by major provisions. Treasuries rose, the U.S. dollar retreated against its major peers and oil tumbled.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 560.43 points, or 2.4 per cent, to 23,951.2, the S&P 500 gained 84.12 points, or 3.05 per cent, to 2,845.75 and the Nasdaq Composite added 323.32 points, or 3.95 per cent, to 8,515.74.

Canada’s main stock index resumed its climb in a broad-based rally despite another drop in crude oil prices since the U.S. brokered a supply cut deal.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 182.49 points at 14,258.43.

Equities extended gains after a report that President Donald Trump will make some “important announcements” in the next few days regarding state guidelines on reopening the economy. Separately, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said that a May 1 target to reopen is “a bit overly optimistic” for many areas of the country.

As the earnings season gets under way, investors will get a sense of how bad the pandemic could hit global companies. The International Monetary Fund said the “Great Lockdown” recession would be the steepest in almost a century and warned the world economy’s contraction and recovery would be worse than anticipated if the coronavirus lingers or returns. Traders are also focused on whether trillions of dollars in stimulus and rescue plans will sustain the rally in risk assets amid uncertain corporate profits.

“This will be a unique earnings season,” Tom Essaye, a former Merrill Lynch trader who founded “The Sevens Report” newsletter, wrote in a note. “But it remains critically important because it’ll give us microeconomic insight into the question of ‘How bad is the damage?’ — which remains the single most important question we all need to answer to successfully navigate this market over the medium and longer term.”

Investor pessimism over the pandemic’s economic damage is at “extreme” levels with cash positions at the highest since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a Bank of America Corp. survey.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 increased 3% as of 4 p.m. New York time.
  • The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.6%.
  • The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 2.1%.

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.5%.
  • The euro increased 0.7% to $1.0986.
  • The Japanese yen appreciated 0.6% to 107.15 per dollar.

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell two basis points to 0.75%.
  • Germany’s 10-year yield decreased three basis points to -0.38%.
  • Britain’s 10-year yield gained four basis points to 0.341%.

Commodities

  • The Bloomberg Commodity Index decreased 0.5%.
  • West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 7.7% to $20.68 a barrel.
  • Gold fell 0.5% to $1,753.40 an ounce.

Bloomberg.com

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