Wall Street shakes off dismal unemployment news, closes the week on a high

Weekly data from the Department of Labor showed another 6.6 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week higher by around 280 points Thursday, shaking off a dismal weekly jobs number after the Federal Reserve announced $2.3 trillion in emergency programs to shore up the economy.

The S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq also saw gains on Thursday, with gains of close to 1.4 percent and 0.75 percent, respectively.

Thursday is the last trading day for Wall Street this week, as markets are closed Friday due to the holidays. The Dow and S&P are both up 12 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq has rallied by 10.5 percent. It was the best week for the S&P since 1974 and the best close for the Dow since March 10.

The positive news from the Fed came on the heels of brutal weekly data from the Department of Labor showed another 6.6 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits, bringing the jobless total to more than 16 million in the past three weeks, or 10 percent of the nation’s workforce.

”The massive number of suddenly unemployed and furloughed Americans speaks to the urgency of our economic predicament, and the Federal Reserve is again responding in an equally massive way,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Federal Reserve is throwing out all the stops.”

The Fed said the programs would include the Payroll Protection Program and other measures, and would be geared toward businesses with up to 10,000 employees and $2.5 billion in revenues for 2019.

“Our country’s highest priority must be to address this public health crisis, providing care for the ill and limiting the further spread of the virus,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a statement.

The slew of economic news comes as the White House more closely considers the timeline for reopening the millions of stores and businesses that have been shuttered since the pandemic took hold.

“It would be nice to open with a big bang,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday at a coronavirus task force news briefing, though he said he supported reopening the economy in phases, based on advice from health officials to hold off until the U.S. is “on the down side of the slope.”

Oil prices jumped briefly on Thursday on reports that Saudi Arabia and Russia have reached a deal on production cuts at an emergency meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+.

For more than a month now, Russia and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in a price war, which has destabilized the global oil market. G-20 energy ministers are set to meet on Friday, with Saudi Arabia presiding.

In Europe, finance ministers scheduled a second round of negotiations, having failed to agree on a $543 billion stimulus bill to mitigate the economic impact from the coronavirus. The impasse centers around how much northern states should contribute, since they have been less affected than southern countries such as Italy and Spain.

The struggle to reach agreement prompted European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde to urge resolution, saying, “If not all countries are cured, the others will suffer. Solidarity is in fact self-interest.”