• More than 6.6 million people filed for jobless claims last week; 10 million have filed over the past two weeks.
  • Oil futures surged more than 8%
  • Asian equity markets finished mixed

Update: 12:05 p.m. EDT:

U.S. stocks turned higher in volatile trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 334.93 points to 21,278.44, while the S&P 500 rose 44.1 points to 2,514.60 and the Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 112.27 points to 7,472.85.

In Europe markets closed higher, as Britain’s FTSE-100 gained 0.47%, France’s CAC-40 moved up 0.33% and Germany’s DAX rose 0.27%.

Crude oil futures surged 23.09% at $25 per barrel, Brent crude jumped 21.58% at $30.08.

Original story:

U.S. stocks opened lower on Thursday as more than 6.6 million Americans filed for initial jobless claims last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 20.76 points to 20,922.75, while the S&P 500 fell 2.72 points to 2,467.78 and the Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 17.34 points to 7,343.24.

The Labor Department said Thursday that more than 6.6 million people filed for unemployment insurance claims last week – meaning, 10 million have filed over the past two weeks.

Coronavirus deaths rose in France and Spain, while Italy and Germany extend their lockdown measures. In the U.S., Florida ordered people to stay at home, while New York and New Jersey reported a spike in deaths.

“The incremental news on the virus in the last 24 to 48 hours has been disappointing,” said John Porter, a fund manager at Mellon Investments Corp.. “The global economy has hit a wall, there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and that’s contributing to the volatility in the markets and the downward trajectory we’ve seen the last few days.

However, West Texas Intermediate crude futures jumped more than 10% after President Donald Trump said he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia to reach an agreement to settle their ongoing price war. Also,

“While April will be an extremely volatile month in terms of both the news flow and stock market reactions, I do think many are anticipating this,” said Bleakley Advisory Group chief investment officer Peter Boockvar. “What is not priced in I believe because it’s obviously hugely unknown is what is on the other end come May. How contained will this virus spread be by then? To what extent will things begin to reopen, if at all?”

Some analysts expect U.S. firms to slash dividends.

“While we have not seen announcements yet, dividend cuts could be on the horizon for U.S. companies,” said New York Life Investments multi-asset portfolio strategist Lauren Goodwin.

“With a heavy hit to revenues, businesses may opt to prioritize employees and lower borrowing loads over paying dividends. This could present a risk for equities. Announcements of temporary (1-2 quarters) of dividend cuts could be priced in, but longer cuts would likely contribute to negative sentiment,” she added.

Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren said Wednesday that Congress will probably have to come up with more stimulus to help small businesses and lower income people.

He said that unemployment is likely to “rise pretty dramatically over the next couple of months”

“I don’t think we’ll turn a corner until people feel comfortable taking mass transit again,” he added.

Economists were stunned by the ongoing economic carnage.

“The output loss to date because of the shutdowns is already 2.5 times the output lost due to 9/11,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s like a massive natural disaster, an earthquake shaking the whole country, the whole world.”

Zandi noted the total job loss from the 2008-2009 financial crisis was about 8.7 million.

Overnight in Asia, markets were mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite rose 1.69%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged up 0.84%, and Japan’s Nikkei-225 dropped 1.37%.

In Europe markets traded lower, as Britain’s FTSE-100 dropped 0.61%, France’s CAC-40 tumbled 1.1% and Germany’s DAX fell 1.84%.

Crude oil futures surged 8.22% at $21.98 per barrel, Brent crude gained 7.48% at $26.59. Gold futures jumped 2.17%.

The euro slipped 0.79% at $1.0877 while the pound sterling edged up 0.15% at $1.2385.