U.S. stocks rose sharply Tuesday, buoyed by early indications that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was slowing in some hot spots around the world.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 2.8% in midday trading, a day after rising almost 8%. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite also jumped, climbing 2.3% and 1.5% respectively. All three indexes are attempting to rally for the third time in four sessions, though they remain down about 20% from their mid-February highs.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the state’s hospitalization rate has showed signs of slowing, and other hard-hit countries in Europe, including Italy and Spain, have reported a slowdown in new infections following strict containment measures.
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“It’s hard to reject the view that things are improving,” said Paul O’Connor, head of multiasset at Janus Henderson. “Markets have been celebrating this in the last couple of days.”
Still, the trends are preliminary and authorities have warned that the coronavirus infections in the U.S. and U.K. are likely to worsen in the coming week. Even as demand for intensive care units has flattened in New York, Mr. Cuomo said Tuesday that deaths related to the virus hit a record Monday. So far, nearly 5,500 people have died from the virus in the state, representing almost half of all U.S. deaths.
Even more, economic indicators have shown that a deep recession may be looming. The Mortgage Bankers Association said Tuesday that mortgage forbearance requests grew 1,896% between the weeks of March 16 to March 30. The spike comes as millions of Americans have sought unemployment benefits after the pandemic shuttered businesses.
Markets have swung sharply in recent weeks as investors have tried to make sense of a fast-spreading pandemic that has warranted unprecedented responses by the Federal Reserve and U.S. government. Monday’s gain marked the 12th consecutive trading day that the Dow moved up or down at least 1%.
All 11 sectors of the S&P 500 marched higher Tuesday. Only two of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Merck and Pfizer, ticked lower.
Travel and leisure stocks were again among the best performers in the U.S. and Europe. United Airlines Holdings jumped 8.3%, American Airlines Group rose 15% and Delta Air Lines added 4.2%. Among cruise stocks, Royal Caribbean Cruises gained 21% and Carnival rose 17%. All five stocks remain down more than 50% for the year.
Meanwhile, in London, EasyJet soared 20% after the carrier tapped a U.K. government-aid program for short-term credit. The company’s ability to access the funding suggests that it could withstand the economic downturn, provided that the spread of the coronavirus continues to slow, according to Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at brokerage CMC Markets.
“Markets are pricing in a return to normality for airlines sooner rather than later,” Mr. Hewson said. That optimism is also driving hotel stocks higher, he added.
The rise in risk appetite led some investors to sell the safest government bonds. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 0.749%, from 0.675% Monday. Yields rise as bond prices fall.
Oil prices also ticked higher, with the global benchmark Brent crude advancing 0.3% to $33.15 a barrel.
In currency markets, the ICE Dollar Index slipped 0.7%. The greenback has been wavering amid renewed risk appetite, according to Jordan Rochester, a currency strategist at Nomura.
“It’s definitely a risk-on day,’’ leading some investors to sell the dollar, he said.