Stocks climbed to more than 10-week highs as investors focused on signs the American economy will continue to reopen and U.S. central bankers acknowledged the severity of the coronavirus pandemic when they met last month. Crude oil rallied for a fifth day.
The S&P 500 erased all of Tuesday’s losses, with Lowe’s Cos. and Target Corp. reporting sales that topped estimates. The index pulled back from its session high after the Senate passed a bill that could bar some Chinese companies from listing on American exchanges, adding to tensions between the nations. Gains were broad, with energy, financials and technology leading all 11 sector groups higher. The index is up more than 30 per cent since its March low, but the advance has largely petered out in May as volatility returned.
“We’re getting some great data out of places like Florida,” said John Ham, associate adviser at New England Investment and Retirement Group. “These incremental improvements are going a long way to drive this market higher as we slowly return to normal.”
U.S. central bankers saw the pandemic posing a severe economic threat and were also concerned by the risks to financial stability, minutes of the April 28-29 Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed.
“The Fed is increasingly concerned about the downstream effects the pandemic has on the most powerful driver of the economy — the consumer,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*Trade Financial. “And while the Fed’s stimulus packages along with the CARES Act have given the economy a bit of a boost, they’re not afraid to lean on what’s left in their toolkit for more fiscal support.”
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index erased an early decline to close higher. The euro posted its fourth straight advance versus the dollar, as expectations built for the approval of a region-wide stimulus plan. Gilts climbed as the U.K. sold bonds at a negative yield for the first time.
Yields were steady as the U.S. Treasury resumed sales of 20-year bonds for the first time since 1986. The securities drew a yield of 1.220 per cent, slightly higher than the 1.213 per cent yield that traders were indicating before the sale.
Investors have been whipsawed by conflicting news regarding a possible vaccine for the virus, as many governments around the world ease lockdowns even as the pandemic continues to spread, with Brazil now the world’s hotspot for new infections. The euro’s gains coincided with progress on a 500 billion-euro (US$550 billion) fiscal-stimulus plan by the European Union, though critics say the package may be too little, too late to counter the devastating effect on the region’s economies and bolster the outlook for corporate profits.
“We’re driven by the headlines and we should expect to see some volatility when it comes to markets,” said Nela Richardson, an investment strategist at Edward Jones & Co. “The volatility is to be expected.”
Elsewhere, equity benchmarks in Japan and India saw the bulk of gains in a mixed Asian session, with Shanghai and Hong Kong in the red. In Japan, Tokyo Stock Exchange was among stocks which surged amid speculation that it may be a contender to join the Nikkei 225 equity index.