The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 1:00 am

Markets keep up positive upswing

Stocks surge for health care firms

STAN CHOE and ALEX VEIGA | Associated Press

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks climbed Monday, led by big gains for health care companies announcing developments that could aid in the coronavirus outbreak.

The rally tacked more gains onto a recent upswing for the market, which is coming off the best week for the S&P 500 in 11 years. Nascent optimism is budding that the worst of the selling may be approaching, but markets around the world are still tentative as global authorities try to nurse the economy through the pandemic. The S&P 500 remains 22.4% below its record set last month, and oil tumbled to an 18-year low.

The S&P 500 rose 3.4% Monday for its fourth gain in the last five days. European indexes climbed after erasing earlier losses. Asian markets were down, but by much milder degrees than the huge swings that have rocked investors during the last six weeks.

A surge for health care stocks led the way at the week's opening. Johnson & Johnson leaped 8% after saying it expects to begin human clinical studies on a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 by September. Abbott Laboratories jumped 6.4% after saying it has a test that can detect the new coronavirus in as little as five minutes.

Stocks jumped last week after the Federal Reserve promised to buy as many Treasurys as it takes to get lending markets running smoothly and Capitol Hill reached a deal on a $2.2 trillion rescue package for the economy.

“The market wants to see everything line up, and last week everything lined up,” said Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones, referring to the unprecedented aid from the Fed and Congress.

Now, she said, President Donald Trump also appears to be in sync with health experts about the need to restrict the economy to slow the spread of the virus. Trump on Sunday extended social-distancing guidelines, which recommend against group gatherings larger than 10, through the end of April. Earlier, he had said he wanted the economy open by Easter.

“Now that message is in line,” Richardson said. “All these things line up coming into this week, and that's why you saw strong performance last week continuing today.” 

Quick take

+The S&P 500 rose 85.18 points, to 2,626.65.

+The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 690.70, or 3.2%, to 22,327.48

+The Nasdaq gained 271.77, or 3.6%, to 7,774.15

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