The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 4:30 pm

Stocks close higher as investors regain some more confidence

ALEX VEIGA and DAMIAN J. TROISE | Associated Press


Stocks posted solid gains on Wall Street Wednesday, erasing their losses from a day earlier. Big-name investor favorites like Facebook, Apple and Amazon helped pull the market higher. The S&P 500 rose 1.7%. Technology, the only sector that’s holding on to a gain for the year, accounted for much of the market’s upward move. Communications companies and banks also helped drive the market higher. Markets in Europe and Asia also rose. The price of crude oil jumped 4.8%, its fifth straight gain. Small-company stocks did much better than the rest of the market, another bullish signal.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story is below:

Stocks moved broadly higher on Wall Street in afternoon trading Wednesday as the market bounced back from a sudden drop a day earlier.

The S&P 500 was up 1.6%, more than it lost on Tuesday, when the index snapped a three-day winning streak. Crude oil prices posted their fifth straight gain.

Technology, the only sector that's holding on to a gain for the year, accounted for much of the market's upward move. Communication services companies and banks also helped drive the market higher. Markets in Europe and Asia also rose.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 365 points, or 1.5%, to 24,572. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, rose 2%. In another bullish signal, small-company stocks led the rest of the market, sending the Russell 2000 index up 3%.

“Although this is optimism, this is very cautious optimism,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist with TD Ameritrade. “You’re seeing people also buy bonds today. That’s very surprising seeing the stock market doing well and also seeing people buy bonds.”

Despite Tuesday's stumble, Wall Street is on track to recoup its losses from last week amid fresh hopes for a U.S. economic recovery in the second half of the year and optimism about a potential vaccine for COVID-19. A strong rally on Monday reversed all of the market's losses for the month. The index is still down about 12% from its all-time high in February, however.

Investors are betting that the economy and corporate profits will begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic as the U.S. and countries around the world slowly open up again. However, concerns remain that the relaxing of stay-at-home mandates and the reopening of businesses could lead to another surge in infections, potentially ushering in another wave of shutdowns.

“What it all comes down to is consumer spending," said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "If we’re all still sitting home in September or October, the market is going to go lower.”

The market is getting some insight into how companies are navigating the economic fallout from the coronavirus this week as several retailers report quarterly results. Lowe's and Target reported quarterly results that topped Wall Street's forecasts as they benefited from people stocking up on supplies at the stores and online during the coronavirus lockdown. The companies also reported a sharp increase in costs related to the pandemic.

Even with the strong sales growth, the retailers’ stocks fell as some traders questioned whether the companies’ results will weaken as the economy opens up and people have more shopping options.

After rising initially, Lowe's shares slippe 0.4%. Target fell 3%.

Wall Street also hammered Royal Caribbean after the cruise line operator said it booked a $1.4 billion first-quarter loss as it was forced to suspend operations due the pandemic. Its stock briefly climbed after the company said bookings for 2021 are within historical ranges. It was down 2.4%.

Oil prices, which have nearly doubled since the beginning of the month, continued to climb. Benchmark U.S. crude for July delivery rose $1.53, or 4.8%, to settle at $33.49 a barrel. July Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained $1.10, or 3.2%, to close at $35.75 a barrel.

The price of oil has made a comeback this month as oil producing nations cut back on output and the gradual reopening of economies around the globe have driven up demand. Crude oil started the year at about $60 a barrel, but plummeted earlier this year as demand sank due to widespread travel and business shutdowns related to the coronavirus.

Bonds yields were mostly lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for interest rates on many consumer loans, fell to 0.68% from 0.71% late Tuesday.

Global stock markets moved broadly higher. France’s CAC 40 rose 0.9%, while Germany’s DAX climbed 1.3%. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.1%. Markets closed mostly higher in Asia.

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