Stocks wrap best month since 1987 as coronavirus recovery continues

The S&P and the Dow Jones Industrial Average wrapped the best month since 1987 despite sliding on Thursday as total job losses related to the coronavirus shutdown topped 30 million.

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For the session, the Dow dropped 288 points, or 1.17 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.92 percent and 0.28 percent, respectively.

While the month of April saw a strong rebound as the Nasdaq led with a 15.4 percent rise, while the S&P 500 and Dow rose 12 percent and 11 percent respectively.

Investors dipped back into the markets as the U.S. economy prepares to reopen state-by-state following unprecedented business closings due to the coronavirus.

First-time unemployment filings totaled 3.84 million in the week ended April 25, adding to the previous total of more than 26 million in the six weeks since states adopted “stay-at-home” orders.

At least nine U.S. states have partially reopened and many more are making plans to lift at least some restrictions soon.

Looking at stocks, Dow components Dow Inc., McDonald’s and Microsoft all reported their quarterly results.

McDonald’s global same-store sales sank 3.4 percent during the first three months of the year as a 22 percent drop in March more than offset a 7.2 percent advance in January and February. The fast-food giant’s quarterly profit fell 16 percent to $1.1 billion.

Dow Inc. beat on both the top and bottom lines, but said its margins took a hit amid weaker demand and lower selling prices for some of its chemical products due to the plunge in oil prices.

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Microsoft reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue and said the COVID-19 pandemic had “minimal net impact” on its business. Revenue from the company’s “More Personal Computing” segment rose 3 percent, outpacing internal expectations.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, social-media giant Facebook earned $4.9 billion in the first quarter – more than double a year ago – as the number of daily active users spiked 11 percent to 1.73 billion. The company did, however, warn of a “significant reduction” in advertising demand.

Tesla reported a surprise adjusted profit of $1.24 a share, outpacing the 36-cent loss that was expected. The electric-car maker earned $16 million on a net basis. Shares rallied but gave up those gains on the day.

American Airlines lost $2.2 billion as non-essential travel ground to a halt due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, British-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell slashed its dividend by 66 percent to 16 cents a share, marking the first reduction since World War II. U.S. rivals Exxon Mobil and Chevron Energy report their quarterly results on Friday.

Oil and gas explorer Chesapeake Energy is preparing a potential bankruptcy filing as the company attempts to navigate rocky conditions caused by the recent sharp decline in oil prices.

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The pain of that may be beginning to dissipate. West Texas Intermediate crude oil soared 25 percent to $18.84 per barrel as traders look ahead to production cuts from the world’s largest producers beginning on Friday. WTI fell 8.01 percent in April and has shed 69 percent this year.

Gold slipped 1.13 percent on Thursday to $1,684.20 an ounce. The precious metal gained 6.37 percent during the month of April.

U.S. Treasurys climbed, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down by 1.8 basis points to 0.609 percent.

European markets were lower across the board, with Britain’s FTSE down 3.5 percent, France’s CAC off 2.12 percent and Germany’s DAX weaker by 2.22 percent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei climbed 2.14 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite added 1.33 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was closed for a holiday.

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