Stocks fight for gains as small-business relief overshadows job losses

Staying ‘well away’ from coronavirus markets: Bill Browder

Hermitage Capital CEO Bill Browder argues the markets are in totally uncharted territory and there may be worse news to come.

U.S. equity markets inched higher Thursday morning despite another big print for initial jobless claims that preceded a House vote on replenishing aid to small businesses battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 110 points, or 0.47 percent, in the opening minutes of trading while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite cilmbed 0.62 percent and 0.55 percent, respectively.

First-time jobless filings for the week ended April 18 totaled 4.43 million, bringing the total number of Americans out of work over the past five weeks to more than 26 million.

Members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are set to pass a bill that will grant nearly $500 billion of aid to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The bill will be sent to President Trump to be signed into law if it is passed.


Looking at stocks, big-box retailer Target reported online sales have soared by 275 percent so far in April and that overall comparable sales are up 5 percent. The company warned its margins will fall by 5 percentage points in the first quarter due to temporary wage increases now set to continue through May 30.

Apparel retailer Gap has suspended rent payments and is in talks with landlords to negotiate or terminate leases. The company said it could end up in default if it is unable to renegotiate its terms.

Marathon Petroleum warned the plunge in gasoline demand will lead to a quarterly loss and force the company to take a $7.8 billion writedown when it reports its quarterly results next month.

Elsewhere, drugmaker Eli Lily beat on both the top and bottom lines and said COVID-19 lifted global revenue by $250 million. The company warned the virus could negatively impact results later this year.

Domino’s Pizza reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue and said U.S. same-store sales cilmbed 7.1 percent during the first four weeks of the second quarter. International same-store sales, however, fell 3.2 percent through the first three weeks of the quarter.

In the entertainment industry, Las Vegas Sands reported a net loss of $51 million as revenue plunged 50 percent from a year ago to $1.78 billion. The casino operator suspended its 79 cents-a-share dividend.

On the commodities front, West Texas Intermediate crude oil surged for a second day, trading up 22 percent at $16.84 per barrel. Gold was also higher, up 0.41 percent at $1,745 per ounce.

U.S. Treasurys were little changed, with the yield on the 10-year note holding at 0.625 percent.

European markets were lower across the board, with France’s CAC down 0.4 percent, Germany’s DAX off 0.12 percent and Britain’s FTSE slipping 0.10 percent.


In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei outperformed, gaining 1.52 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.19 percent and 0.35 percent, respectively.

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