Stock indexes head higher on Wall Street after wobbly start
Stocks are notching modest gains on Wall Street Monday as investors balance cautious optimism about the reopening of businesses shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic against worries that the civil unrest across the U.S. over police brutality could disrupt the economic recovery and widen the outbreak.
The S&P 500 was up 0.5% after wavering between small gains and losses in the early going. Banks, companies that depend on consumer spending and communications companies accounted for a big slice of the gains. Health care was the only sector to fall. Bond yields were mostly higher. Oil prices headed lower.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 115 points, or 0.5%, to 25,499. The Nasdaq composite was up 0.7%. Smaller company stocks were faring better than the rest of the market, driving the Russell 2000 index 1.5% higher.
The stock market is coming off its second month of solid gains. Stocks have now recouped most of their losses after the initial economic fallout from the coronavirus knocked the market into a breathtaking 34% skid in February and March. The S&P 500 is still down 10% from its all-time high in February.
The Federal Reserve and Congress have pledged unprecedented amounts of aid for the economy. That helped spur the market's move higher from its March lows. Now investors are betting that the worst of the recession has already passed, or will soon, as governments around the country and around the world slowly lift restrictions meant to corral the outbreak.
So far, the civic unrest as protests against police brutality and racism turned violent in multiple cities in recent days has not weighed on the market, even as the protests have stoked concerns of a new increase in coronavirus contagions.
“The market has been expecting a springtime for economic activity,” said Mike Zigmont, head of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management. “If these events derail the animal spirits that the markets have been counting on across the country, then I think they will have an impact. But investors are dismissing it as a short-term, non-event.”
This week will provide market watchers more insight on the impact that the coronavirus is having on U.S. workers and employers. Payroll processor ADP issues its May survey of hiring by private U.S. companies Wednesday. The next day, the government releases its weekly tally of applications for unemployment aid. And on Friday, the government reports its May labor market data. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect the report will show the economy lost 9 million jobs last month.
European indexes were broadly higher. Asian markets closed higher, including a gain of more than 3% for Hong Kong’s stock market. Investors were relieved after the Trump administration on Friday avoided pulling out of a truce in a tariff war with China in response to Beijing’s new security law on Hong Kong.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.67% from 0.64% late Friday.
Oil prices reversed an early slide. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5 cents to settle at $35.44 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 1.3% to close at $38.32 a barrel.