KEY POINTS

  • More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, down from 6.9 million in week before,
  • More than 16 million Americans filed jobless claims over past three weeks
  • OPEC, Russia meeting via video to discuss output cuts

Update: 12:05 p.m. EDT:

U.S. stocks traded higher as of noon Thursday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 332.34 points to 23,765.91, while the S&P 500 rose 37 points to 2,786.98 and the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 75.25 points to 8,166.16.

In Europe markets closed higher, as Britain’s FTSE-100 rose 2.9%, France’s CAC-40 advanced 1.44% and Germany’s DAX gained 2.24%.

Original story:

U.S. stocks climbed on Thursday as millions of Americans filed for unemployment last week due to the coronavirus-related shutdown, while the Federal Reserve vowed to bolster the economy with massive lending program.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 338.99 points to 23,772.56, while the S&P 500 rose 32.17 points to 2,782.15 and the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 69.65 points to 8,160.65.

The Labor Department said on Thursday that 6.6 million Americans filed first-time unemployment claims for the week ended Apr. 4. Over the past three weeks, more than 16 million have filed.

However, the most recent number is below the revised figure from last week of nearly 6.9 million.

The Federal Reserve unveiled details of its $2.3 trillion Main Street lending program  which would provide loans for business with up to 10,000 employees and $2.5 billion in revenue. 

“This Fed is the most aggressive Fed. They do not want to be known as the reason why we went into a depression,” said CNBC’s Jim Cramer. “I’m very impressed. The Fed is on its game and this is what is needed because we got to fight off a depression, we got to get America open for business.”

But analysts are very concerned about swelling unemployment.

“In the first wave [of filings] you saw the first hit was to service workers,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton just prior to the release of the latest data. “Leisure was really large, but retail is going to be big in the next wave ... all the hundreds of thousands of retailers put workers on furlough. You’re going to see more and more broad-based layoffs -- temporary as well as long-term layoffs. The further we get into April, the more we’re going to get beyond hourly workers to salaried workers. What we’ve laid bare is no system was meant to process the kinds of claims we’re dealing with. No one expected this kind of volume, and the systems are antiquated.”

After Thursday’s data was released, Swonk tweeted: “Got punch and then some. Now more than doubling pain of layoffs of [2008-2009] in matter of weeks… Some workers may be called back on payrolls [with Small Business Administration] loans/grants but rollout been rocky.”

OPEC+, which comprises members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC producers and allies including Russia, will hold talks through a video conference on Thursday to consider production cuts.

“We're waiting with bated breath," said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at National Australia Bank. "I think there'll be a deal, which will bring a bit of cheer in the short run. Then everyone's attention will refocus on the fundamentals. The fundamentals are appalling.”

“It’s all a question of when the economy reopens and how quickly that happens,” said Nancy Davis, chief investment officer of Quadratic Capital Management LLC. “We aren’t out of the woods.”

Overnight in Asia, markets were mixed. China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.37%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.38%, and Japan’s Nikkei-225 slipped 0.04%.

In Europe markets trade higher, as Britain’s FTSE-100 rose 1.95%, France’s CAC-40 advanced 1.03% and Germany’s DAX gained 1.51%.

Crude oil futures surged 5.22% at $26.40 per barrel, Brent crude rose 3.65% at $33.69. Gold futures gained 2.86%.

The euro rose 0.34% at $1.093 while the pound sterling gained 0.62% at $1.2461.