Wall Street gains on oil surge, but off early highs

Credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Chuck Mikolajczak

April 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday as hopes for a truce in the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia and a cut oil output drove gains, helping to offset the shocking jump in Americans filing for jobless claims due to coronavirus-led lockdowns.

The S&P energy index .SPNY, down by more than 50% this year due to a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and coronavirus-driven demand worries that has caused oil prices to plunge, climbed 8.01%,

Saudi Arabia has called for an emergency meeting of oil producers, while U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected the kingdom and Russia to cut output by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels a day. Helping U.S. crude CLc1 futures settle up 24.7%, and Brent up 21.5%, their biggest daily percentage gains on record.

Still, major averages were off their best levels of the day as the energy sector pulled back from earlier gains.

"Any good news now, or anything that might even come off as being good news could potentially help markets, that is what you are seeing with energy today," said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at GLOBALT in Atlanta.

"But as we have seen since February, this bear market environment tends to fade those rallies."

the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 224.78 points, or 1.07%, to 21,168.29, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 28.06 points, or 1.14%, to 2,498.56 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 45.75 points, or 0.62%, to 7,406.34.

The list of top gainers on the benchmark S&P 500 was littered with oil companies. Occidental Petroleum OXY.N surged 18.20%, with names such as Apache Corp APA.N and Halliburton HAL.N also seeing double-digit percentage gains.

A bump in prices may still not be enough to save some of the debt-laden U.S. shale companies that are on the brink of bankruptcy as demand continues to plunge, wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysts foresee a further decline in U.S. stocks as country-wide shutdowns to limit the spread of the virus result in a virtual halt in business activity and force companies to lay off employees and save cash.

Boeing Co BA.N, once a symbol of America's industrial might, has offered buyout and early retirement packages to employees, sending shares down 6.25%.

Investors continue to absorb a wave of bad economic news, that will continue to paint a grim picture. Initial claims for unemployment benefits last week rose to 6.65 million, exceeding the top end of economists' estimates at 5.25 million.

"Everyone’s jaw dropped last week at 3 million and we hit 6 million this week and everyone yawned, which is just remarkable how that psychology works," said Buchanan.

As earnings season slowly begins to get underway, Walgreens WBA.O fell 7.88% after the drugstore retailer reported a steep decline in U.S same-store sales in the last week of March. L4N2BQ32Z

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.05-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.03-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 19 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 3 new highs and 115 new lows.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Tom Brown)

((charles.mikolajczak@tr.com; @ChuckMik; +1 646 223 5234; Reuters Messaging: charles.mikolajczak.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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