Virus Optimism Boosts Stocks, Despite Tepid Start to Earnings…..

U.S. equities were higher, as a lukewarm unofficial start to Q1 earnings season was overshadowed by optimism surrounding continued signs suggesting the coronavirus’ curve may be leveling off in the U.S. and Europe. Dow member JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo reported large credit reserve builds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dow component Johnson & Johnson topped the Street’s expectations and raised its dividend. Crude oil prices remained under pressure as the recent record OPEC+ production cut has done little to boost prices, as the demand shock of the virus disruption appears to be keeping any euphoria in check. Treasury yields were mostly higher, as bond prices ticked lower, and the U.S. dollar fell, while gold gained ground. In light economic news, import prices fell in March but at a smaller-than-expected rate. Europe finished mixed, while Asian markets were higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 559 points (2.4%) to 23,950, the S&P 500 Index increased 84 points (3.1%) to 2,846, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 323 points (4.0%) to 8,516. In moderately heavy volume, 1.2 billion shares were traded on the NYSE and 3.7 billion shares changed hands on the NASDAQ. WTI crude oil declined $2.30 to $20.11 per barrel, while wholesale gasoline was up $0.02 to $0.72 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price was $13.54 higher at $1,728.88 per ounce, while the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.5% lower to 98.87.

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