Wall Street has risen for the third time in four days as the US Federal Reserve rolled out a massive $US2.3 trillion program to bolster local governments and businesses, while energy stocks have jumped on an expected cut in oil production.
In what is likely to be its largest rescue effort ever, the Fed said it would work through banks to offer four-year loans to companies of up to 10,000 employees and directly buy the bonds of states and more populous counties and cities.
Dev Kantesaria, founder portfolio manager of hedge fund Valley Forge Capital Management in Wayne, Pennsylvania, said a rescue package of such magnitude had not been anticipated.
“The Federal Reserve and the US government are willing to go to extreme lengths to support the economy and that has been far beyond my expectations,” he said.
Meanwhile, data showed initial US jobless claims fell slightly last week to 6.6 million from an upwardly revised 6.87 million the week before.
Still, new claims topped six million for the second straight week, underscoring the scale of the damage the health crisis is doing to the US economy.
The S&P 500 has regained about 11 per cent in the holiday-shortened week on early signs of the outbreak hitting a peak and aggressive global stimulus, but it remains about 16 per cent below its record high as lockdown measures hamper business activity.
While public health experts stressed the need to keep people apart to contain the contagion, the restrictions have strangled the economy and sparked widespread production cuts, layoffs and projections of a severe recession.
Energy stocks led gains on the S&P 500, rising well over three per cent on Thursday, as a meeting of the world’s biggest oil producers to discuss production cuts got under way.
Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Marathon Oil and Apache rose between two per cent and 18 per cent as oil prices gained.
Big banks also rose at least four per cent, with the benchmark index set for its biggest weekly percentage rise since 1974 if gains hold through the day.
Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial Corp in New York, warned things could change quickly.
“A (market) rally doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods just yet nor that volatility is a thing of the past,” he said.
“If there is one thing recent history has shown us, it’s that optimism can wear off quickly if cases climb or stay-at-home orders are extended.”
At 10.35am local time on Thursday the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 459.89 points, or 1.96 per cent, at 23,893.46, the S&P 500 was up 48.94 points, or 1.78 per cent, at 2798.92 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 40.10 points, or 0.50 per cent, at 8131.00.
Starbucks fell more than nearly one per cent as the coffee chain forecast a 47 per cent drop in second-quarter earnings due to a loss in sales.
Walt Disney jumped 4.1 per cent as the company said its Disney+ streaming service had attracted more than 50 million paid users globally.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 11.78-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 4.19-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 5 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 12 new highs and six new lows.