NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks marched higher for a third straight day Friday as a massive coronavirus relief bill moved closer to passing Congress and Wall Street took some historically bad unemployment figures in stride.
The S&P 500 rose 6.2%, bringing its three-day rally to 17.6%. The Dow industrials have risen an even steeper 21.3% since Monday.
Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, easily shattering the prior record set in 1982, as layoffs and business shut-downs sweep across the country.
The market shot higher Thursday because Wall Street knew the bad news on unemployment was coming, analysts said, and the Senate finally passed a $2.2 trillion economic aid package as part of an astonishing amount of support being pushed into the economy by politicians and the Federal Reserve.
Despite the big gains, the S&P 500 remains 22% below its February high and analysts expect more dire economic headlines, and market turbulence, in the days ahead.
Companies are also expected to report discouraging results in just a few weeks as earnings season begins. Very few have dared to issue forecasts cap-turing how big a hit the virus will inflict on their profits.
The market’s rally began Tuesday amid expectations that Congress would approve the massive rescue plan, which includes direct payments to U.S. households and aid to hard-hit industries. The House of Representatives is expected to approve it Friday.
Investors still need to see stability in banks and, especially, in oil prices to maintain confidence, because markets could be in for another slide if oil goes below $20 a barrel, said Andrew Slimmon, managing director and senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
Benchmark U.S. oil slid 7.7% to settle at $22.60 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has forecast that it will fall well below $20 a barrel in the next two months be-cause storage will be filled to the brim and wells will have to be shut in.
Investors say the market needs three main things to slow its breathtaking drop, which has sliced one quarter off the S&P 500 since it set its record last month.
The first is already here after the Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates back to nearly zero and offered to buy an unlimited amount of Treasurys to get lending markets running more smoothly. The second is making progress, as the economic rescue plan moves through Capitol HIll.
The third, though, is getting more concerning by the day: the accelerating spread of the virus.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.83% from 0.85% late Wednesday. It had been as low as 0.77% just before the jobless report was released. Lower yields reflect dimmer expectations for economic growth and greater demand for low-risk assets.
Boeing continued to climb after soaring more than 24% Wednesday in part on expectations that it stands to gain from the Congressional aid package. The aircraft manufacturer was the biggest gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rising 13.7%.
The Dow was also adding to its gains this week. It rose 6.4%, or 1,351.62 points to 22,552.17. The Nasdaq gained 413.24 points, or 5.6%, to 7,797.54. The benchmark S&P 500 index rose 154.51 points to 2,630.07.
European markets closed broadly higher following a mixed finish for Asian markets.
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