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02 Apr 2020 | 15:32

US open: Stocks trade higher despite dire jobless report

(Sharecast News) - Wall Street trading began on a positive note on Thursday as oil prices rebounded and investors thumbed over a jobless claims report that came in ahead of even the dourest of expectations. As of 1530 BST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.32% at 21,009.81, while the S&P 500 was 0.56% firmer at 2,484.41 and the Nasdaq Composite came out the gate 0.30% stronger at 7,382.38.

The Dow opened 66.30 points higher on Thursday, reversing some of yesterday's losses as the blue-chip index continued the form recorded in its worst first quarter in history.

Sentiment got a boost on Thursday as West Texas intermediate crude shot up 9.55% to $22.25 a barrel after Donald Trump said he now expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to reach a deal in their price war. Brent crude was up 10.63% at $27.37 per barrel.

While airline stocks sunk as new data revealed that air passenger numbers in February had tumbled at the steepest rate since the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001, energy stocks were up in early trading, with the likes of Exxon Mobil and Chevron both trading higher.

Global cases of Covid-19 are now around 942,000, while the death toll in the US has topped 5,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

On the macro front, data from Challenger, Gray & Christmas' revealed that job cuts had surged 267% year-on-year to 222,288 in March, as the Covid-19 outbreak claimed a total of 141,844 jobs across the US.

"The virus has caused total whiplash for HR, hiring managers, and recruiters. The labour data for February showed a strong economy with a tight labour market. Companies were fighting for talent across industries. Now, millions of workers have filed for unemployment, companies have frozen hiring, and in many cases, cut operations or closed completely," said Andrew Challenger.

Elsewhere, US jobless claims surged even further last week as businesses rushed to shutter activity, surpassing even the most downbeat estimates.

Some economists said the figures were consistent with a surge in the US rate of unemployment to possibly as high as 16% by April and that a further fiscal boost would be required as a result. According to the Department of Labor, during the week ending on 28 March, the number of initial jobless claims soared by 6.648m following an upwardly revised jump of 3.307m during the prior week.

Finally, America's shortfall in trade with the rest of the world narrowed sharply in February as Chinese exports slowed amid the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Department of Commerce, in seasonally adjusted terms, the US trade deficit in goods and services shrank from -$45.3bn for January to -$39.9bn in March - to its smallest in over three years. Economists had pencilled-in a deficit of -$43.8bn.

In comparison to January, exports dipped by 0.4% to $207.5bn, while imports fell 2.5% to $247.5bn.

No major corporate earnings were scheduled for release on Thursday.
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